UT Dallas Robots Play Starring Role at Conference
Students Showcase Initiatives at Science, Technology and Math Education Event
Jul. 9, 2012
Pro basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leads a conference session on STEM education with the help of a squad of UT Dallas robots.
Flying robots, robotic chess pieces and a roving robot, all programmed by University of Texas at Dallas students and faculty, recently shared center stage with national business, education and government leaders at an event aimed at bolstering science, technology, engineering and math education.
The U.S. News STEM Solutions 2012 Leadership Summit, a three-day conference held in Dallas last month, brought together educators, industry leaders, government officials and philanthropists to discuss how best to connect the dots between STEM education and the need for science- and technology-related skills in the American workforce.
A UT Dallas robot outfitted with a container "head" helped distribute books to people on the panel.
The UT Dallas robots were on hand to help launch a new national initiative called STEMx, which encourages states to share best practices and engage in partnerships to improve education in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM fields.
Hundreds of conference-goers attended a special opening session at which NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar moderated a panel discussion that included the UT Dallas robots performing at several key moments. Robotic chess pieces decorated with UT Dallas pennants whirred across the stage and twirled on cue, while a wheeled mobile robot with a metal container attached to its “head” helped Jabbar distribute books to panel members.
The finale included two aerial robots that hovered, flipped and flew out over the audience.
The Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science and School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics were involved in the showcase.
“The robotics demonstrated at this event are fairly straightforward,” said Dr. Nicholas Gans, assistant professor of electrical engineering at UT Dallas. “However, they provide insight into the complicated research my students are working on.”
Flying robots were on display.
For example, Gans’ research group is applying advanced sensing capabilities to unmanned aerial vehicles for possible use in agriculture, disaster response, environmental monitoring, energy exploration and security. In addition, the wheeled robot is part of a project aimed at developing assisted-living robots.
Students from Gans’ Sensing, Robotics, Vision, Control and Estimation Lab participated in the event. They were Ben Nilson, a master’s student in computer engineering; J. Pablo Ramirez, a PhD student in electrical engineering; and David Tick, a doctoral student in computer engineering.
From the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Joshua Baggett, who is pursuing a master’s degree in science education, and Anna Slaybaugh, an undergraduate mathematics major and UTeach Dallas student, also took part in the robotics display.
Dr. Nikki Hanegan, director of the UT Dallas’s Center for STEM Education and Research (C-SER), coordinated the robotics demonstration with conference organizers. She said UT Dallas is a key player in Texas’s efforts to support STEM education and careers.
“UT Dallas has several programs that address the three critical components of STEM education,” Hanegan said. “First, programs like those in the Science and Engineering Education Center link outreach with community partners to promote STEM education. Second, our UTeach Dallas program is training the next generation of science and math teachers. And through the C-SER, we are supporting teachers in the field with professional development and best practices to enhance STEM education.”
UT Dallas students took part in the event. From left: J. Pablo Ramirez, a PhD student in electrical engineering; David Tick, a doctoral student in computer engineering; Ben Nilson, a master’s student in computer engineering; Dr. Nikki Hanegan, director of the UT Dallas’s Center for STEM Education and Research; Anna Slaybaugh, an undergraduate mathematics major and UTeach Dallas student; and Joshua Baggett, who is pursuing a master’s degree in science education.
Alumna Champions Women Pushing
to Bolster STEM Education Programs
Sherine Mathew, a Eugene McDermott Scholar alumna and a graduate student in UT Dallas’ Naveen Jindal School of Management, was invited to speak at a recent event honoring dozens of women who are advocates and national leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Mathew was invited to give brief remarks about the value of mentorship and female role models at the U.S. News STEM Solutions 2012 Leadership Summit, a national conference recently held in Dallas. She spoke at a reception launching a new publication called “100 Women Leaders in STEM.”
Mathew addressed the shortage of STEM professionals in the U.S. and encouraged young women to pursue STEM-related careers.
“I feel strongly about the need to bolster STEM fields in the U.S., and I was honored to have the opportunity to thank those leaders who have risen to meet this pressing challenge,” Mathew said.
Among the women being honored were leaders in STEM-related industry, government and nonprofit agencies. In her comments to the group, Mathew said the challenge for her generation is to “recognize the immense need and opportunity within these dynamic fields.”
“For the millions of young women across the U.S. like myself, we need your mentorship: to learn from your success in creating change and from the challenges you faced in doing so. I know that my own interest in science was sparked and sustained through the inspiration I’ve received from dynamic leaders, and especially from the unique perspective shared by women leaders.”
Mathew recently earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and biology from UT Dallas. She currently is pursuing a master’s degree in health care management and plans to attend medical school.
The Galerstein Women’s Center at UT Dallas, which hosts a number of STEM initiatives, nominated Matthew to speak at the event.