STEM

More than 100 local area high school students visited Colorado School of Mines Feb. 20 to learn about STEM careers during DiscoverE Engineering Week. The event, sponsored by Lockheed Martin, hosted various activities throughout the day.

Students began the morning with a chemistry show by Mines professor Renee Falconer in Coolbaugh Hall. Falconer performed several demonstrations; one of which included mixing chemical elements in balloons before igniting them on fire. Shortly after the presentation, students were divided into groups to tour Hill Hall and the Geology Museum—observing the moon and florescent rocks on display.

Around noon, students attended a mentoring lunch in Friedhoff Hall. Paul Anderson ’85 spoke on “Dreaming Big” and his journey from Mines to Lockheed Martin. Company experts sat at roundtables with students to answer questions on their experiences.

Energy Education Specialist Dr. Cynthia Howell partnered with Jeanette Alberg, manager of community relations for Lockheed Martin, three years ago with the purpose of celebrating National Engineering Week.

“What started as a pilot project between Lockheed Martin and Mines is now an annual event ever-growing in sophistication, collaboration and purpose as it meets organizational goals,” Howell said. “This event brings together more than 70 volunteers and highlights the Mines and Lockheed Martin recruiting, engineering, scientific and research prowess.”

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / KMorton@mines.edu

Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / KGilbert@mines.edu

On Feb. 8, more than 100 Colorado high-schoolers – all female – spent the day at Mines for Girls Lead the Way 2014, a conference focused on women and the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

The Mines collegiate section and Rocky Mountain professional section of the Society of Women Engineers partnered to host this event for the second year.

“The purpose of the conference was to get high school girls excited about the STEM fields, expose them to a variety of different industries they may not be familiar with and mostly just to have fun while getting to know girls with similar interests,” said Carly Conley, Mines SWE officer and event organizer.

“I think it is important to reach out to young women regarding STEM because diversity helps enhance creative problem solving in the workplace. Women are very capable of understanding technical subject matter, but we often approach problems differently than men. I think it is to everyone's benefit to have both ways of thinking work together to solve complex problems,” she said. “There are a lot of young women who don't realize the skills they possess, so I think it is important to help them become aware of the possibilities that await them in a STEM field.”

Conley said the day was educational not just for the students in attendance, but also for her fellow SWE members – both collegiate and professional. The conference featured speakers from industries including biomechanical engineering, civil engineering and construction, oil and gas, aerospace and the military.

“The learning most certainly does not end after high school, we are all continuously learning and benefiting from hearing about each other's experiences,” said Conley.

Organizers said both participant and parent feedback was encouraging.

“One parent said the event was ‘an excellent orientation to a truly elite school,’” said Agata Dean, adjunct instructor in the Applied Mathematics and Statistics Department and interim faculty advisor for the Mines SWE section.

Faculty and staff from across campus also participated in the event. Abby Hickman, from the Mines Admissions Office, organized an information session for parents; Katie Schmalzel, of Student Life, facilitated a fashion show for the girls; Lin Sherman, from the Career Center, hosted a session on resume writing; and Dr. Anne Silverman, from the Mechanical Engineering Department, led a seminar on biomedical engineering.

The Girls Lead the Way conference was sponsored by Aera Energy, Williams, BP, Merrick & Company and Stanley Consultants.

Students in the College of Engineering and Computational Sciences Senior Design Program are building a lunar mining rover with technology that could support driverless vehicles.

Electrical engineering senior Megan Salinas is one of a 16-member multidisciplinary student team called Blasterbotica. She said their project “supports robotic mining technology in deep mines and Australian deserts, to self-driving cars in California.”

“The sensing and driving technology we are researching could develop into your personal driving chauffeur,” said Salinas.

Students have to apply to be a part of the team and are selected by administrators in the Senior Design Program. Two senior design teams working on locomotion and autonomy subsystems are reusing a rover built last year to make improvements for this year’s project.

“I was interested in the coding and autonomy aspects of this project,” mechanical engineering senior Ryan Stauffer said. “They wanted computer science students so it was a perfect fit for me.” 

The class is designing and building a mining rover for NASA as part of a Regolith Mining Competition. In its fifth year in the competition, Mines must develop a winning robot that will excavate and deposit a lunar regolith simulant (rock powder), traverse an obstacle area and deliver the materials to a collection container.  The winner of the competition will receive a $3,000 team scholarship and an invitation to watch a rocket launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in the spring.

Chris Dreyer is the faculty advisor for the team and an assistant research professor in the mechanical engineering department.

“NASA created the competition to develop technologies for and promote the concept of space resource utilization—and STEM education,” Dreyer said.

The team often does testing on the Golden volleyball sand pits, as it is a convenient substitute until a regolith test bed is ready. Dreyer said that regolith is a difficult material to drive on and can confound sensors.  

“It is an interesting robotics problem because the environment is difficult to predict,” Dreyer said. “No team has completed the competition with an autonomous rover.”

In addition to support from the program, the team raises funds through donations for most of their expenses. Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the Center for Space Resources, also helps sponsor the team by providing funds and an assembly and testing workspace in the center’s lab on the Mines campus.

“This project directly relates to the research we are conducting at the center,” Abbud-Madrid said. “We are learning how to design autonomous systems for remote space applications. This particular project is beneficial because it brings all expertise of Mines together for this purpose.”

The Senior Design class has a website at inside.mines.edu/25763-php. The team has a website at blasterbotica.mines.edu

Blasterbotica is looking to expand student participation beyond the senior design groups. Students interested in helping out can contact Dreyer at cdreyer@mines.edu.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / KMorton@mines.edu

Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / KGilbert@mines.edu

Imagine a smaller version of the Blaster the Burro statue on campus with the same precision of detail. Professor Jered Dean and Dr. Douglas L. Van Bossuyt, along with three mechanical engineering graduate students from the Design Innovation and Computational Engineering Laboratory under the direction of Dr. Cameron Turner, created a one-twentieth-scale model of the mascot just last week. The new Blaster stands 2.5 inches tall.

As part of a tech fee proposal that was funded last spring, a 3D scanner was purchased for students to use for research and design. One 3D printer was loaned to group to use for experiments and test its capabilities. The group is submitting a tech fee proposal next week in hopes to fund additional 3D printers for students to use at a low cost (i.e. $3-5 a printed part). They are also working on collaborating with some of the 3D print houses in Denver.

Before 3D scanners, when an engineer would want to reproduce a part without a drawing, they would need to go through a time-consuming and often inaccurate set of measurements to document the part features and reproduce the part in a CAD model.

“A 3D scanner allows engineering designers to build upon or modify existing parts with relative ease, even if they do not have the drawings to the original part,” Turner said.

The activity of scanning Blaster was done to show off how powerful the combination of 3D Scanning and 3D Printing is. The process required 4.5 hours in total and the model produced consisted of 2.5 million points of data. The group used several algorithms to correct any errors they found. A program called a “slicer” converted the data into a series of machine codes, which drive a 3D printer. Once the printing was finished, the model was wrapped in scaffolding to protect the plastic from drooping during extrusion.

“I was actually blown away by the level of detail that it achieved, and the ease with which it was used, especially with no training or prior experience,” Graduate student Daniel Anderson said.

Graduate student John Steuben is currently working on the development of a low-cost attachment for smartphones, which would convert the phone's camera into a microscope 40 times the power of the standard instrument.

“I am hoping to develop this device with STEM education in mind, and produce it for a cost of less than $5 using 3D scanning and printing technology,” Steuben said.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / KMorton@mines.edu

Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / KGilbert@mines.edu

In the center of a clear plastic tub, small rocks formed a mound. With sixth graders gathered around the tub, Lyndsey Wright poured cool water over the rock mound. Next she poked small holes in a paper cup, put some blue food coloring in the bottom, and set the cup in the corner of the tub. Quickly she poured hot water into the cup. And the students observed. Then they got their own tubs and supplies to reverse the experiment with warm water over the rock mound and cold water in the cup. They observed, compared and discussed the experiments.

A textbook could have provided an explanation of how mountains affect climate, but this was interactive. This was fun.

Wright is pursuing a master’s degree in applied mathematics at Mines. She is focused on a numerical method for solving Poisson’s Equation for her research project. And she also says she likes doing “nerdy lessons with kids.” Last year, funded by the NSF’s GK-12 Learning Partnerships grant, Wright worked with a middle school science and math teacher. This year, funded by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, she is working with a kindergarten teacher to give children an early introduction to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Kelly Lundstrom is a master’s student in applied statistics. Her research is related to assessment in education, specifically with the Bechtel Initiative, and she works with Mines Professor Barbara Moskal on assessing data from the program. For the past year and a half, she worked in an elementary school classroom where one of her favorite lessons was a raisin race, teaching students that matter exists as solids, liquids and gases and can change from one state to another by heating and cooling. She also co-ran an after-school science club where students completed engineering design projects.  “My favorite part was seeing how excited the students got every time I presented something cool related to STEM,” said Lundstrom.

Funded by grants from the Bechtel Foundation and the National Science Foundation (NSF), kindergarten through eighth grade teachers, Mines faculty and Mines graduate students work together to develop problem-centered, interdisciplinary learning experiences for K-8 students in Adams County District 50, Adams County District 12, Denver Public Schools and Englewood Schools. Mines leads a two-week summer workshop focused on mathematical, scientific and engineering content, as well as instructional techniques, for the teachers and graduate students. Then throughout the following school year, the graduate students provide assistance to the teachers in their classrooms.

“Every week elementary and middle school students interact with Mines students – great role models who like science and math and want to work in a STEM field,” said Moskal, who directs the Trefny Institute and the Center for Assessment of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at Mines. Her research group examines the effectiveness of existing and new STEM programs and asks: How do you capture the impact of outreach programs on students’ learning and attitudes?

One thing Moskal has learned is students want to see the usefulness of STEM subjects. They are motivated when they realize how STEM can benefit their lives and the lives of others. So practical applications are an important element of Mines’ STEM programs, which also include the Renewable Energy Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (REMRSEC) K-12 Education Outreach.

Supported by the Bechtel Foundation, BNSF Foundation, ECA Foundation, Northrup Grumman, NSF, Shell Oil Company and The Denver Foundation, this program provides Adams County District 50 and other teachers at the summer workshop with age appropriate lesson plans on energy basics, solar energy, hydrogen and energy efficiency. The Engineering Research Center for Re-Inventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure at Mines also partners with Adams County District 50 to help teachers create compelling lessons and activities for their students during the summer workshop.

The American Society for Engineering Education has honored the Mines programs as “Best K-12 Partnerships” for two consecutive years, and the programs are growing, reaching more teachers and students with increasingly innovative, practical and effective approaches to STEM education. Serving the STEM pipeline from kindergarten to career, Mines is helping the nation build a highly skilled, competitive workforce.

 

Physics for Students with Dyslexia

The Rocky Mountain Camp for Dyslexics is Mines’ newest STEM partner. The American Physical Society will fund “Children with Disabilities: Physics Outreach to Dyslexic Students,” a grant proposed by Moskal and Craig Taylor, REMRSEC director. They will direct the development and delivery of instructional modules in physics for K-6 students. The modules, involving 10 hours of hands-on physics lessons, will be tested on 40 students at the five-week summer camp held in Indian Hills, Colo.

“Dyslexia does not impair students’ scientific and engineering reasoning,” explained Moskal. “In fact, some researchers believe that dyslexic students have enhanced capabilities in science.”

Graduate student Lyndsey Wright has helped in the past with the science unit of the camp. “It is really just a lot of fun,” she said. “It allows me the freedom to do the coolest experiments I can possibly think of with a group of kids who genuinely enjoy and have an aptitude for science.”

 

Retired as a vice admiral after a Navy career of 30 years, Richard Truly can speak about leadership from a remarkable perspective. He began his career after earning a degree in aerospace engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology. After distinguished service as a naval aviator, Admiral Truly became one of the first military astronauts. He piloted the Space Shuttle Columbia and was commander of the Space Shuttle Challenger. He left NASA to become the first commander of the Naval Space Command. Called back to NASA, Admiral Truly led the accident investigation and rebuilding of the space shuttle program following the Challenger accident, then served as the eighth administrator of NASA. Later Admiral Truly served as vice president of the Georgia Institute of Technology and director of the Georgia Tech Research Institute and then as director of the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. In addition to numerous professional awards, recognitions from NASA and many military decorations, Admiral Truly was awarded the Presidential Citizen’s Medal by President Ronald Reagan. He serves on many boards, including the Colorado School of Mines Board of Trustees as vice chairman. John Poate, vice president of research and technology transfer at Mines, interviewed Admiral Truly in the lobby of Maple Hall on the Mines campus.

A group of Mines students and faculty are collaborating with area teachers, college professors and school administrators on a project aimed at enhancing education in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, particularly as they relate to sustainability and energy.

Initiated in 2010 by members of the Red Rocks Foundation board, which includes former Mines president John Trefny, and funded by a three-year grant from the Community First Foundation, the Red Rocks Institute for Sustainability in Education (RISE) includes partners at Red Rocks Community College, Colorado School of Mines and Jeffco Public Schools.

... read more at minesmagazine.com.

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