Higher Education and Technology

University spotlights STEM projects

April 16, 2014
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Engineering takes center stage
GVSU features a student Skittles sorting machine at the annual Project Day by the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing. Courtesy GVSU

A local university is showcasing the work of its engineering and computing students tomorrow.

The Seymour and Esther Padnos College of Engineering and Computing is hosting Grand Valley State University’s Project Day from 10 a.m. to noon on April 17 at the Kennedy Hall of Engineering on the Grand Rapids campus. The event will showcase PCEC student projects and expose K-12 students to how engineers and computing professionals make an impact in daily operations.

Paul Plotkowski, dean of PCEC, said the project day not only is beneficial for GVSU students, but also fosters interest in K-12 students in STEM disciplines. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are the different fields of study incorporated in STEM education.

“It gives our students another venue to present their work and improve their communication skills. They are presenting these projects, so they get a chance to interact with the younger students and it adds excitement as well,” said Plotkowski. “We really try and make it very obvious to the students in middle and high schools that these are wonderful things you can do and to be ready, (because) here is what you want to do. You have to start the pipeline early.”

Approximately 200 students and visitors from greater Grand Rapids-area schools are anticipated to attend the Project Day event, in which roughly 40 GVSU student projects will be presented and showcased. Projects demonstrations will include: Sparky II, a 5-axis robot; Turnstone, a mobile application allowing users to follow bills and contact legislators; an unmanned air vehicle used to observe forest fires; and a product reducing bug infiltration in homes.

Carol Sloan, academic advisor and outreach coordinator for PCEC, said students from Cedar Springs High School, Holland Christian High School, Kent Innovation High School, Newaygo Technical Center, University Prep Academy and Zion Christian High School are expected to attend.

Project Day was created in response to community feedback on the senior design conference GVSU students attend before graduation in August. According to Plotkowski, it was pointed out that it was unfortunate the conference took place while younger students were not in school.

“To make it visible to the K-12 students, we basically started doing an activity similar to what we do in the summertime, where the projects that are coming out of our courses are presented and available so that the students from the schools can come in and get a sense of how engineers and computing professionals impact the world — what kinds of things we work with — and give them a good exposure to the real practical side of STEM,” he said.

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