This past fall, UNT hosted the ONR-PACCAR STEM field trips for Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (Navy JROTC) students from Hebron High School along with students from Betty Myers Middle School.
“Our cadets had an eye-opening experience and realized the importance of the STEM related fields of study. They commented that they were not aware of the numerous fields of work related to STEM,” said Commander Eduardo E. Morales, who retired from the United States Navy and is currently serving as the senior naval science instructor for the Navy Junior ROTC Program at Hebron High School. “With that said, our female cadets were quite impressed with the female presenters and realized that the doors of opportunity were wide open for them as well in the related STEM studies and fields. Overall, it was a great trip as our Cadets were exposed to new areas that they were not previously knowledgeable to.”
Anupama Kaul, director of the PACCAR Technology Institute and joint professor in the departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Electrical Engineering, organized the event thanks to sponsorship from the institute and a recent grant she received from the Office of Naval Research.
“My students thoroughly enjoyed the STEM field trip,” said Sarah Hallin, a Bettye Myers Middle School science instructor, who brought nearly 60 students to Discovery Park to learn more about STEM. “They were immersed into what being a STEM student is all about. While there, they were able to view research and participate in activities that would not otherwise be available to them. After the experience, my students were more motivated to pursue a career in STEM.”
Kaul and her faculty colleagues in the Department of Electrical Engineering, Assistant Professor Ifana Mahbub, Associate Professor Gayatri Mehta and Assistant Professor Colleen Bailey worked collaboratively to engage close to 90 students in total over the fall 2019 semester in their respective research labs. The students were provided exposure to 3D printing; electronics; wireless communications for biomedical applications; integrated circuit design using fun, interactive games and puzzles; and robotics for optical sensor processing for autonomous mechatronics. Through interactions with peer mentors, such as graduate and undergraduate students from the four research groups in Engineering, students were able to get a better understanding of the role STEM plays in shaping America’s economic leadership globally through technology and innovation.
“As researchers, I believe one of our core responsibilities is to inspire young students about the possibilities offered by a STEM education, instill curiosity and aspire them to achieve their desired career goals,” said Kishan Jayanand, a doctoral student in Kaul’s lab, who helped lead logistics for the student field trips. “It was a very good experience helping to organize these STEM field trips; I was able to interact with a lot of enthusiastic minds and inform them of the exemplary STEM career options.”
Other peer mentors also played a key role in helping make this a successful event. One such student was Gerardo Gamboa, an undergraduate research fellow and an NSF REU student in Kaul’s research group.
"The STEM field trip gave me a chance to encourage students in the local community to look into STEM broadly, with a particular focus on 3D printing and its future with nanomaterials,” said Gamboa. “Through the module I developed with assistance from my other fellow group members, I provided these students a glimpse of what immense possibilities lie ahead within the field of additive manufacturing."
“I love to be part of the STEM events organized at UNT,” agreed Anirban Chakraborty, a doctoral student in Mehta’s group. “Relating difficult engineering problems to simple real-life activities and describing them to the kids makes me personally happy. Whenever my team and I presented our STEM-based game, Untangled, they actively took part and were eager to play their puzzles. Meeting the new generation minds and reaching to their level to explain engineering concepts is a challenge that I would love to take on again.”