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Austin Science & Engineering Festival 2010

Ingram School of Engineering students and faculty participating in the 2010 Austin Science & Engineering Festival had the opportunity to show kids how it felt to design and control an experiment.  Two adjustable catapults served as tools in teaching kids the importance of cause and effect; “As Industrial Engineers, we are often asked to analyze the outcome of a system, and use the collected data to determine what factors in the process had the greatest effect to the outcome,” student Cody Guidry says.  Kids were challenged to make adjustments to the catapults in order to achieve certain goals.  For instance, Cody goes on to explain: “If the goal is to manipulate the catapult so that it shoots a ball the furthest difference, then we will have the kids determine the different factors of the system: ball type, band location, projectile angle, etc. Once they comprehend each setting, they can make the adjustments they deem necessary to achieve the furthest distance. This is a very simple way of demonstrating how the outcome (launch distance) of a system (catapult) can be greatly affected by variability in system design.”

Tactical, first-hand experiences can help kids understand complicated theories and processes more effectively.  According to Electrical Engineering professor Dr. Larry Larson, the Ingram School of Engineering strives at achieving this goal for students, “We believe our strengths are our ‘Hands-on’ approach to Engineering and our Industrial/Commercial mindset and approach… Almost all of our classes have attached labs, where the students get to actually do what they have been lectured about – for instance, in my semiconductor class – they get to make a diode and a transistor and test them for function.” 

A second activity presented on display to the kids in attendance was the ‘eye tracker.’  Student in the Computer Science department built these trackers to use with UTI-Copenhagen software as part of their Human Computer Interaction course ran by Dr. Oleg Komogortsev.  According to student Jonathan Park “we are researching and implementing possible improvements to the existing software and hardware to make the system more robust and reliable…the big picture goal of this research is to create low cost ways for people with severe impairments to communicate with the world.”

It is imperative for kids to be introduced to material in an engaging way and Texas State University-San Marcos is dedicated to getting kids of all ages involved and interested in the sciences.

Special thanks to all the students and faculty who participated in this year’s Austin Science & Engineering Festival!

Students:

  • Jonathan Park
  • David Shelton
  • Aundrea Brannan
  • Quy Lai
  • Panida Allers
  • Cody Guidry
  • Gray Arrington
  • Leanna Miller
  • Joe Alex Granado
  • Sam Stavinoha

Faculty:

  • Dr. Harold Stern
  • Dr. Jaime Hernandez
  • Dr. Clara Novoa
  • Dr. Larry Larson
  • Dr. Fred Chen

Photos courtesy of Sam Stavinoha