ECS Impact: Springing Back into the Community
by Grace Jacoby, ECS student marketing specialist
WACO, Texas (April 13, 2022) – With life mostly getting back into full swing after the Covid-19 pandemic, Baylor University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) faculty, staff and students are renewing their commitment to engage with the community. This Spring, ECS has taken opportunities to encourage, equip, and educate pre-college students in various ways.
Robotics competition at the BRIC
Dr. Anne Spence, assistant chair and clinical associate professor of Mechanical Engineering, is eager to increase the diversity of the engineering student body through providing K-12 students the opportunity to explore engineering from an early age. Over the past 20 years, she has served as a volunteer with FIRST, a robotics and research program designed to inspire young people to pursue innovation. Dr. Spence served as the Maryland state leader for the FIRST Lego League. Last fall, she was approached by the local FIRST Tech Challenge committee about hosting the Waco League FTC Tournament at Baylor.
Dr. Spence recognized that this was a perfect opportunity “to connect the research going on in engineering at Baylor with local high school students who are interested in engineering and technology,” she said.
The tournament involved small groups of pre-college students competing in robotics through various matches and a final competition that determined the overall winner. Students built robots that they brought to the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC) for the competition.
Most importantly, Dr. Spence said the tournament was an opportunity to “celebrate students with interests in engineering and technology just like we celebrate high school and collegiate athletics,” fulfilling the goal of the FIRST organization. She wants all young students to feel empowered to pursue engineering and is eager to equip them for success through programs like FIRST.
GEARing UP in the ECE Labs
Dr. Vincent Leung, associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), is committed to creating opportunities for exposing young students to higher education STEM opportunities. He recently facilitated BRIC field trips for students from Moody High School and Rapport Academy through a partnership with GEAR UP, a U.S. Department of Education program designed to help young students with “Getting Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs.”
Groups of ninth and tenth grade students aspiring to study engineering were able to experience the Baylor ECS environment. The students took a tour of the BRIC facility, heard the perspectives of Baylor engineering students, and learned about several professors’ research projects. Dr. Emmanuel Agamloh, associate professor of Electrical Engineering, told Moody High School students about high performance electric motors. The Rapport Academy students heard from Dr. Scott Koziol, assistant chair and associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, about his research on autonomous mobile robots. Dr. Leung said he is grateful to the dozen Baylor representatives who helped to make these visits happen.
Elementary school students may not fully understand a complex motor or autonomous robots, but they are eager to learn how the world works. In April, ECS faculty, staff and a dozen students volunteered at Midway ISD’s South Bosque Elementary School’s STEAM Night with kindergarten through fourth grade students, facilitating fun, interactive stations including paper circuits, makey makey kits and a fruit piano. Emily Sandvall, senior director of undergraduate programs, and Dr. Koziol were two ECS leaders who participated.
“Students and families commented on how much they loved interacting with and learning from our students,” Sandvall said. “Everyone had a blast.”
Up I-35 in DFW, Steven Potter, a lecturer in Electrical and Computer Engineering, made a presentation to gifted middle school students during Engineer Week at Jerry Knight STEM Academy in Mansfield. Students enjoyed seeing the connection between computers, electrical, and mechanical components. Potter used components from his Embedded Systems Design course to create a simple experiment to display how a transistor can be used to combine the “brains” of a microcontroller with the brawn of a 12V computer fan power supply.
“The microcontroller read temperature data from a digital temperature sensor and turned on a computer fan if the temperature exceeded a certain threshold, then turned the fan back off once the temperature dropped below the threshold,” Potter said.
Although many of these young people are years away from high school graduation, for some, glimpses into engineering and life at Baylor ECS only help students to make more informed decisions about their future fields of study.
ABOUT THE SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING AND COMPUTER SCIENCE
Baylor University's School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) prepares its students to be innovators for worldwide impact by training graduates for professional practice and responsible leadership with a Christian view. Students can choose from majors, including computer science, electrical and computer engineering, general engineering, informatics, and mechanical engineering. ECS also offers graduate programs in all areas of study within the school. We stand out from the crowd through Christian commitment, a strong community, expert accessibility, leading practical experience and teamwork. Visit Baylor.edu/ECS to learn more.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.