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In 2012, University of Arizona, through engineering associate professor Ricardo Valerdi, partnered with the Arizona Diamondbacks to create The Science of Baseball, an academic curriculum for middle school students that promotes real-world applications of science, technology, engineering and math principles (STEM). To date, the program has reached 100 Arizona schools and 2,000 students across the state.
Now, with the goal of rapidly expanding the reach of the innovative curriculum, the University of Arizona has licensed the rights to the innovative STEM curriculum to Science of Sport, a new company founded by Valerdi, former UA Medical Center Director of Community Relations Crystal Kasnoff, and former San Diego Padres President/CEO Ballard Smith.
Tech Launch Arizona, the unit of the UA that helps faculty members commercialize inventions arising out of their research, facilitated the formation of the new company and the licensing of the intellectual property.
While the Arizona Diamondbacks maintain the rights to distribute the curriculum within the state, the new company aims to deliver the innovative teaching and learning materials via professional sports teams across the nation, and potentially to young sports fans around the world.
“Step one is to be in 30 major league baseball cities and be in every middle school in each market,” says Smith. “Those 30 teams combined have 100 minor league teams in 100 other cities.”
Beyond the US, they have already run Science of Baseball camps in Australia and are targeting Mexico in 2015, according to Valerdi.
To pay for the program, Science of Sport – a not-for-profit company – solicits funding from major league teams, foundations, state and federal programs, corporations and school professional development funds. That money is used to put on STEM camps where students work through the curriculum. Schools and teachers also learn how to implement the program via “train-the-trainer” models. The company plans to target communities with professional sports teams, but focus specifically on those where it can most effectively reach disadvantaged student populations.
Science of Sport already has a contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, whose program will start later this month.
“We’ve had serious discussions and negotiations with the Red Sox, the Nationals and the Padres,” says Valerdi. “We just had a conference call with the Mets, and have a meeting set up with the Dodgers.”
According to Smith, “We have met numerous times with these teams and with the school districts in those markets, and everyone is enthusiastic about the program.”
The curriculum uses the principles of baseball as content for the exploration of topics in biology, mathematics and physics. It directly supports STEM initiatives by focusing on the Common Core Mathematics Standards that have been adopted by a majority of the states in the U.S.
According to UA Director of Technology Transfer Doug Hockstad, “Getting young people involved in the STEM disciplines early is one of the great challenges of education. This program, having been proven to be effective in Arizona, represents a fantastic opportunity engage many students in communities around the nation.”
While baseball will be the initial focus, over time Science of Sport plans to expand the curriculum to other sports such as football, basketball and soccer, with the goal of bringing STEM education to young sports fans everywhere.
See the full article here.
College students often have several months to prepare for national competitions. The UA chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, or NSBE, had only two — and the team went on to win the 2014 NSBE Undergraduate Technical Research Competition in March at the NSBE 40th Annual Convention in Nashville, Tenn.
UA beat two teams from the University of California, Merced, in the first such contest hosted by the Pacific Gas & Electric Co./NSBE Network. The winning team earned $2,000 and invaluable exposure to industry leaders.
The challenge: Improve inspection of natural gas pipelines, above and below ground.
UA’s team of five women and three men conducted research, wrote a technical research paper, and prepared an oral presentation for a panel of PG&E judges. Criteria included technical foundation, field knowledge, comprehensiveness, feasibility, and literature review.
Robots in Pipelines
Utility operators use many technologies to inspect the inside of their pipelines. The most sophisticated are battery-operated robotic crawlers. The robots, which travel along the pipeline, are equipped with sensors that transmit data to off-site information centers. The UA team’s competition entry promises to increase the distance robotic tools travel and improve the quality of data transmitted.
The students’ idea for a self-powering mechanism for the tools was based on the principle by which dynamos on bicycle wheels power bicycle lights. The dynamo system could recharge the robot’s batteries without utility workers having to enter pipelines. It could also power additional sensors on the crawlers, such as high-definition cameras, for higher-quality data.
But the team took its task a step further. Not only could its power source expand the robot’s range and enhance data transmission and quality, it could also help operators precisely locate the tool and any anomalies they detected, such as cracks or corrosion.
Drawing from geometry and math and led by NSBE chapter program chair Moses Wangusi, a materials science and engineering student, the team developed a geolocalization system using specially designed wheels attached to the tools. The system relied on odometry rather than GPS, which does not always work with underground pipelines.
“I thought it was quite ingenious of the students to develop a method that not only improved long-distance telecommunications, but pinpointed the robotic tool’s precise location as they traveled along the pipeline,” said the team’s mentor, Wolfgang Fink, UA associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and Edward and Maria Keonjian Endowed Chair. NSBE chapter members sought out Fink, who now serves as their 2014-2015 faculty adviser, because of his expertise in robotic space exploration and computer-optimized design, and his reputation for being a highly engaging professor.
“Dr. Fink helped us understand PG&E’s current methods and approaches to pipeline inspection,” said NSBE chapter president Maryam Abdul-Wahid, an electrical engineering student in the College’s accelerated master’s program.
Presenting at the conference for the team were Abdul-Wahid, along with former NSBE chapter president Iesha Batts, a chemical engineering major, and chapter vice-president Jerri-Lynn Kincade, a biomedical engineering student.
“I am so grateful to Dr. Fink for his guidance. He showed us his research papers to help us in writing our own, and coached us in practicing our presentation,” said Kincade, who is working this summer in the UA’s highly competitive clinical immersion program in biomedical engineering.
Going Above and Beyond
Getting off to a late start on the project after winter break, the UA team toiled largely after hours and on weekends and devoted spring break to putting finishing touches on its technical paper and presentation. Their extra effort did not go unnoticed among competition judges.
“The UA students approached the problem from a fresh perspective, and they were well prepared to justify their position,” said Ben Wu, senior gas engineer at PG&E and a competition judge. “They also made considerations of cost and ease of use, which are critical to real-life deployment of any technology.”
Working on the project also reinforced future plans for students like Ty’Dria Wright White, NSBE chapter treasurer and chemical engineering student.
“This competition solidified my interest in the energy field,” she said. “My main goal is to work for an energy company and monitor pipelines to make sure they are functioning properly and not releasing contaminants into the environment.”
The all-undergraduate team plans to submit the winning paper to a peer-reviewed journal later this summer.
See the full article here.
It’s not necessarily true that if you build it, they will come, at least not when it comes to girls and STEM programs. Getting girls engaged in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — has long been a challenge for K-12 and higher education institutions.
To help counter the trend, the University of Arizona College of Engineering, in partnership with Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona, will hold its first-ever Imagine IT camp July 6 through July 11, 2014. Designed around search-and-rescue scenarios, the residential camp for middle school girls takes into consideration what girls are interested in learning and how they tend to operate.
“We know giving things a bigger purpose helps engage girls,” said Michelle Higgins, senior director of STEM and education relations for Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona. “Most girls want to go into career fields where they are helping someone, and they do not always make the connection between engineering and helping people. They are very interested in social issues, so our programs and activities focus on how STEM makes the world a better place.”
During their week on campus, about 25 girls from throughout Southern Arizona will explore natural disaster scenarios ranging from forest fires and floods to earthquakes and tornadoes.
In one of the camp activities, girls will design backpacks for search-and-rescue animals. In another, they will design and build PVC piping shelters that can be easily packaged and transported and quickly set up for disaster victims. And each team will program and build a robot from scratch for a specific search-and-rescue need.
“They will learn how to conceptualize and implement the fundamentals of engineering in a robotics setting,” said Ted Gatchell, coordinator of recruitment, retention and outreach at the College of Engineering. “They will partner mechanical components such as motors and gears with electrical components and use several programming languages to form a working autonomous search-and-rescue robot.”
Because research shows girls are not as likely to thrive in competitive STEM environments and prefer a cooperative approach to problem solving, all camp activities and projects will take place in groups.
“In general, girls prefer a collaborative leadership style, rather than the traditional, top-down, command-and-control approach,” said Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Anna Maria Chávez, who earned her juris doctorate at the UA. “The cooperative learning process gives girls the opportunity to develop leadership and STEM skills in a way that feels comfortable and natural for them.”
While the number of women entering many engineering fields has increased over the last decade, electrical and computer engineering and mechanical engineering remain a hard sell to girls.
“So we are emphasizing computer programming and mechanical engineering, fields that still do not have as many women going into them as some of the other STEM fields,” said Higgins.
Among special guests at the camp will be Tucson Fire Capt. Diane Benson, who will talk about how communications technology has changed firefighting and search-and-rescue missions, and Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who will discuss the economic impact of engineering and how STEM fields make society better.
Instrumental in developing the curriculum for the camp were Katherine Salthouse, Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona STEM coordinator, Scott Weiler, a teacher at Amphitheater Middle School in Tucson, and Nikitha Ramohalli, a UA electrical and computer engineering student.
“They really brought this camp to life,” said Gatchell.
Scholarship support for the camp is being provided by the American Association of University Women, and program costs are funded by Intel. The camp will be staffed by female College of Engineering undergraduates, Girl Scouts STEM program experts, and representatives from the Girl Scouts Social Justice program, which works with at-risk girls.
“Partnering with the UA College of Engineering and Girls Scouts to inspire more girls to become engineers, make a difference and change the world, is a win-win,” said Cathleen Barton, Southwest education manager for Intel.
See the full article here.