STEM-ulate stimulates students

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Engineering freshman Julio Banda sits in the solar-powered cart he helped build as a summer undergraduate research project at the STEMulate science showcase Sept. 16 in the mall. The Mesa Mobile, built on a grant from the National Science Foundation, took 15 weeks to construct and was completed Sept. 15. Banda said the cart will be used to promote STEM around campus. Photo by Daniel Carde

Engineering freshman Julio Banda sits in the solar-powered cart he helped build as a summer undergraduate research project at the STEMulate science showcase Sept. 16 in the mall. The Mesa Mobile, built on a grant from the National Science Foundation, took 15 weeks to construct and was completed Sept. 15. Banda said the cart will be used to promote STEM around campus. Photo by Daniel Carde

Hands-on displays in campus event attract curious students to booths promoting careers in science, engineering, technology and math.

Wally Perez

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

The sounds of electricity crackling and light yelps came from a physics and astronomy booth as students participated in a demonstration of a spark generator.

This was the most popular of activities sponsored by the University of Texas at San Antonio physics and astronomy department at this college’s STEM-ulate science showcase Wednesday in the mall.

The generator, when connected to a battery source, charged two spheres side by side and created a spark in the gap between them.

Other demonstrations included gyroscopes and tuning forks, which taught lessons in balance, vibrations and resonance.

Adelante Tejas, a partnership between this college and Sul Ross State University to increase enrollment, transfer and graduation in the sciences, sponsored the event.

Dee Dixon, student success specialist, helped organize the event along with Analisa Sengale, senior student success adviser and MESA Center coordinator.

Multiple colleges and universities, including St. Mary’s University, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, Our Lady of the Lake University and Sul Ross State University were in attendance, as well as the natural sciences and math departments and the engineering technology program at this college.

Other booths that had displays of the field they were representing also drew curious students, even though some scattered during a sudden downpour. Cloudy skies and drizzle, however, did not deter students from taking advantage of the opportunity to learn about science, technology, engineering and math careers.

The earth sciences program at this college displayed rocks, minerals, animal skulls and fossils ranging from birds to tigers, and a giant ground sloth skull that was large enough to hold with two hands.

Geology Professor Anne Dietz encouraged students to stop by the geology museum and Geospot in Room 003 in the chemistry and geology building for information or help.

Dietz recommended tutoring at the Geospot and hopes that may also spark an interest in geology.

The program also is reviving the Geology Club.

“As of now, we’re trying to get students interested in the club, and we hope to set an annual meeting time as soon as possible,” geology sophomore Amanda Barrera said. “I was a liberal arts major until I took one of Professor Dietz’s classes, which peaked my interest in geology ever since.”

Another department that seemed to interest many passersby was the engineering technology program, which had a solar-powered golf cart on display.

Mechanical engineering sophomore Dominic Ochoa and electrical engineering freshman Julio Banda worked on the car, along with a team of STEM students, through a summer undergraduate program.

The students were divided into two groups, the mechanical aspect, and the electrical aspect of the cart. They had a budget of $2,000 for each side, so the planning and research was a challenge to stay within the budget, Ochoa said.

Engineering technology Adjunct Klaus Bartels helped the students with the project.

Bartels said the project was an opportunity for students to learn about renewable energy.

Ochoa said that the project started this summer June 8, and they had the car finished around Sept. 10.

Their first successful test drive was Wednesday before the event.

“It was such an awesome experience to work on this project and with my fellow students,” Ochoa said. “We were excited that we were able to demonstrate all of the STEM principles in one display.”

Banda said the project provided several firsts for him.

“It was honestly amazing,” he said. “I never thought I would do something like this, and I did a lot of things I never thought I would do.”

The students are part of the Mexican American Engineers and Scientists group, which provides internships, scholarships and student support for the field.

Their next project is a hydrogen fuel cell car that they plan to showcase at the Shell Eco Marathon in Detroit.

Most of the universities offered information and scholarship opportunities related to STEM fields.

The scent of formaldehyde lingered around the UTSA biomedical sciences booth as they displayed brains of two humans, a cow and a dog.

As students stopped by and picked up the brains, many made faces.

“From afar, I didn’t really know what they were, and that drew me to the booth,” Paralegal freshman Aaron Carrizales said. “It was pretty interesting to actually hold a brain in my hand. How many people can say they’ve done that?”

The biomedical sciences department offers a scholarship program called the REACT-STEM (Retaining Emerging Alamo College Talent in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) program that allows community college STEM majors to apply for financial support when transferring to UTSA.

Students can receive up to $10,000 a year for up to three years as well as mentoring from UTSA faculty and career and research skills preparation.

Any biology, chemistry or physics student interested in the program can find information at http://www.utsa.edu/crts/react/application.html.

Apart from the universities, one booth stood out from the rest because the sponsors were advertising a different approach to science.

Government Canyon State Natural Area brought examples of taxidermy, animal pelts and skulls as well as pamphlets with information on the wildlife park.

Nursing sophomore Elizabeth Latt was attracted to the booth because of the animals on display.

“Although I’m in the nursing program, I actually wanted to be a veterinarian growing up and love animals,” Latt said. “I’m not fond of the stuffing of animals, but it was crazy to be able to see them up close, and I’m shocked to see how soft some of their fur is, especially a raccoons.”

Anyone interested in more information on STEM Week can contact Sengale at 210-486-1825 or visit www.alamo.edu/sac/mesa.

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