Sixth-graders from Whittle Springs Middle School got out of the classroom today and into engineering research labs at CURENT, the Distributed Intelligence Lab, and the Machine Intelligence Lab in the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science. Nearly 50 students from the partner school, which is located about six miles from the University of Tennessee campus, explored three different labs and had an interactive conversation about engineering with faculty.
"The trip was a real-world experience, and students need that" said Jamie Stapleton, a science teacher from Whittle Springs. "This provides a connection between the classroom and the real-world opportunities in engineering and science."
Teachers, students, and school principal Dr. Jill Hobby toured UT's engineering facilities and interacted with a variety of lab demonstrations. The group learned about human sensor technology and an NAO Robot from a presentation by Ph.D. candidate Mike Franklin in Dr. Lynne Parker's Distributed Intelligence lab. Also, undergraduate student Nicole Pennington showed off robotic dogs and the UT Robotics Team's competition robot in Dr. Itamar Arel's Machine Intelligence lab.
Besides robotics demonstrations, undergraduate students Nick Rutledge, Jason Mills, Kenson Therrien, and Jeremy Spears showed their senior design project supervised by Dr. Fran Li, which is a device that controls electric outlets in a home via a web-based application. A few volunteers from Whittle Springs were able to use a software program to turn light bulbs, night lights, and fans on and off from a smart phone.
Besides seeing actual research projects in a lab setting, the field trip also gave students the opportunity to interact with undergraduates and faculty affiliated with CURENT and the university. UT students presented their projects in a hands-on way so that the group could get involved and put their classroom knowledge to the test.
"I think they received (engineering) career aspects and more of the engineering design process today," said Ms. Stapleton.
The lab tour event was coordinated by Suzette Stiles and Adam Hardebeck from CURENT, as well as Whittle Springs science teacher Sharon Harder.
Lab tours and campus visits like this one are part of CURENT's mission to educate a new generation of students about opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. For additional information about outreach opportunities in our research center, please contact Suzette Stiles at email@example.com.