Young Students Explore the Possibilities of Engineering at UT Dallas
The University of Texas at Dallas kicked off National Engineers Week (EWeek) 2019 with several activities for aspiring engineers on Explore Engineering Day, which attracted more than 2,000 participants on Feb. 16. The family-friendly event featured a kid zone with hands-on activities, educational demonstrations, workshops and tech talks by faculty and local engineering company leaders.
UT Dallas’ Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science hosted EWeek in collaboration with the Science and Engineering Education Center.
Begun in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers, EWeek (Feb. 17-23) is dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by highlighting engineering and technology careers and inspiring students to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.
Geared for All Students
There were workshops and lectures on Explore Engineering Day to satisfy most attendees’ curiosities.
For example, the Home Depot Build Workshop was geared to students in grades K through 5, who learned how to establish a plan, assemble and inspect raw parts and materials, use simple hand tools, and complete a scale model helicopter and race car.
The activity was designed to provide youngsters with a concrete example of how engineers put together a prototype quickly to test a concept.
“We enjoy being a vital part of the local community by working with industry and local businesses to motivate the next generation of top engineers.”
Kuntesh Chokshi MS’01, MBA’04 brought his 9-year-old son, Krish, to Explore Engineering Day.
“My son loves to make things and break things, so I know he’s having a wonderful time,” Chokshi said. “I want him to focus on STEM and give him the tools to make an educated decision on what he wants to be in life.”
For kids who love computing, the Coding Workshop: Animations with MIT Scratch was a big hit. MIT Scratch is a graphical user interface-based programming environment that appeals to young children. Youngsters created 2D animations of objects, designed cool drawings, made a character sing a tune, developed an interactive game and narrated a story with images.
Ten-year-old Sienna Cook was in her element.
“I love how you can create things, tell a story, or make up a game by coding,” said the fifth-grader from Kimberlin Academy for Excellence in Garland. “It’s nice that there are people here who can help me if I have questions.”
For middle and high school students, a drone-building workshop drew a lot of interest. The workshop gave students hands-on experience in using a plan, assembling and inspecting raw parts and materials, using simple tools and building a drone.
“I loved the drone-making experience,” said Trent Neighbour, a seventh-grader from Ereckson Middle School in Allen. “I like building things, putting them together and seeing how they work.”
Heart of Exploration
Among the most impressive programs was a popular workshop called Build an Optical Heart Rate Monitor. Geared toward potential budding biomedical engineers, the workshop, sponsored by the UT Dallas student chapter of Engineering World Health, led students through the process of building a heart-rate monitor. Students learned how to place electronic parts, solder pieces in place and test the board for performance. Completed kits will be sent to Rwanda and used to train technicians who will help save lives.
Sponsors of Explore Engineering Day at UT Dallas were: ABB, The Home Depot Inc., Fujitsu, Collins Aerospace, ATC, Capital One Women in Tech, Baylor Scott & White The Heart Hospital-Plano, Texas Instruments Inc., Tech Titans, National Space Society of North Texas, Wolters Kluwer, Interurban Railway Museum, Teliatry Inc., OnPoynt Drone Solutions and Zyvex Labs.
Sachin Kathiresan, a ninth-grader from Plano East Senior High School, was happy to have an opportunity to make a real-world impact.
“It’s cool that we’re involved with an affordable way to begin building a heart monitor in an afternoon,” Kathiresan said. “It could potentially save lives. I’ve never been involved with anything so life-changing like that before.”
In addition to workshops, tech talks touched on a variety of topics, including how art can help teach coding, how to keep girls engaged in STEM, virtual and augmented reality, women in engineering and the future of spaceflight.
Dr. Poras T. Balsara, interim dean of the Jonsson School, is proud UT Dallas opens its doors to the community to explore how engineering and computer science create innovation and invite discovery.
“UT Dallas has grown exponentially as a technical powerhouse,” he said. “We enjoy being a vital part of the local community by working with industry and local businesses to motivate the next generation of top engineers.”