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Reaching Out: Science Saturday Aims to Promote the Sciences

On February 6th, 2010 Texas State University - San Marcos hosted Science Saturday - a STELLAR II (STEM Teaching Excellence for Leading, Learning, Articulation, and Reflection) event that enriched the lives of students and teachers alike.  Our faculty is committed to the goal of the STELLAR II program: to reach out to students in the impressionable grades of K-12 and provide them with the skills they need for a future in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM).  For this Science Saturday, San Marcos’ 5th and 8th graders in the ESL (English as a Second Language) Program and their parents were invited to learn about engineering through hands on lessons, brief lectures, and the work of our own TSU students.  Faculty members Dr. Bahram Asiabanpour, Dr. William Stapleton, Dr. Jaime Hernandez, and Dr. Gary Winek guided the young students through an exciting exploration of some fundamental aspects of engineering.

            The 5th grade class started out with a lecture about electricity and magnetism by Dr. Asiabanpour.   They learned how electrons travel through wires and how magnetic fields generate electric current.  After the talk, Dr. Stapleton presented the students with the task of building small motors.  Students were expected to follow directions carefully to assemble their motors and were rewarded for their diligence by witnessing their small machines become fully functional.  Seeing their motors in action after construction helped reinforce everything they learned with Drs. Asiabanpour and Stapleton prior to the exercise.

             Small solar powered cars helped provide the 8th graders with a lesson in the practical applications of solar cells.  Dr. Stapleton explained to the students how the cells absorb energy from light, freeing electrons for movement (as opposed to a battery which uses a chemical reaction to free electrons). The students were then given the directions and components to build their own fully functional small-scale solar powered cars.  Dr. Asiabanpour aided the students in building the cars, demonstrating that if the solar cells were given a strong enough current from the energy produced by light, the car motor was able to turn causing the vehicle to accelerate.  Once again, the students needed to focus on being detail oriented in order to achieve success.  After building and testing their solar powered cars, the students were treated to the demonstration of a much more ambitious solar powered project.  The students watched a presentation on the work of four Texas State University – San Marcos engineering students:  Daniel Velez, Higinio Trevino, Nicholas Ondrusek, and Zach Ayres – who last Fall built a solar powered bicycle for their senior design project.  This impressive design helped demonstrate the real life applications of solar energy to the young STELLAR II students.  Understanding these applications, and the process of constructing functioning machines, is key for kids interested in pursuing a future in the sciences. 

The elementary and middle school teachers involved also benefited from the activities of Science Saturday.  Dr. Hernandez states that “these educational experiences will help the teachers to enhance their understanding of the foundations and applications of the STEM related subjects and strengthen their motivation to guide and nurture their students to consider Engineering fields (such as EE, IE, & Mfg. Eng) for their college education choice.  This type of educational exposure is a proactive effort to enhance the STEM careers interests for first generation and underrepresented students. These students will be motivated and nurtured if they see the role models in teachers, counselors, mentors, and college faculty both in their pre-college education as well as in their potential college attendance and graduation.”                                                                                                

Being exposed to these basics early is important for not only for the students' potential career development, but also for the Ingram School of Engineering, which is counting on high quality future students to continue its progress towards becoming the premier science and engineering school in Texas.  We look forward to hosting another Science Saturday as well as other events to help students and teachers reach their full potential, particularly in the STEM fields.


      Kid’s Corner: Goodnight Middle School Students Speak

On polarity…

         "I think that the field trip was the best.  We did a lot of things.  The best part of

         it was that we did a solar car, but mine went backwards."  Samuel Benitez


Learning new things…

         "I really enjoyed going to Texas State and doing the solar car.  It was fun learning

         about the new inventions from now.  I hope to go there again."  Jessica Rodriguez


         "I liked going to the university because I learned new things about science.  I liked

          when I made the car."  Luis Ortega


         "On Saturday, we went to the university.  It was cool.  It was fun when they showed

         us old things.  I really liked the solar stuff."  Gaby Ordaz


The Hover Craft Toy Prize…

         "I loved going to the university.  I was the first one to finish the solar car race.  They

         gave something that looked like a plate for a prize, but without food. 

         I had fun."  Carlos Salmaron