Blazer BEST 2014 kicked off Thursday night to an enthusiastic crowd of roughly 400 local high school and middle school students. The students represent 25 teams who will work over the next six weeks to design and build robots to complete specific tasks that were unveiled for the first time at the kick-off.
"It's great to see this level of excitement for an event promoting STEM disciplines, which are science, technology, engineering and math," said Hassan Moore, Ph.D., co-director of the event. "We all get enthusiastic about football, but you don't see international corporations moving to our state because we're good at football. If we can build that same level of excitement around STEM disciplines, you'll see a positive change in the kinds of jobs we can attract to our area."
On Thursday, participants received information about this year's challenge as well as some of the the materials and information they will need to complete their tasks. But by no means is the process completely laid out for them. "Ever year I'm surprised by some of the ideas the students come up with," said Moore. "I've got a Ph.D. in physics, but some of these middle school students, will figure out ways to solve the problems that I never would have considered. If we just give them some basic parameters, it's amazing what they can come up with."
Faculty members from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering joined Bessemer City Schools superintendent Fred Primm last week to speak to Bessemer students and parents at a STEM Awareness Forum.
Department chair Murat Tanik, Ph.D., attended the event, along with assistant professor Arie Nakhmani, Ph.D., associate professor Hassan Moore, Ph.D., and Abi Yildiorim, Ph.D., director of the Signal Processing & Embedded Systems Laboratory.
The event was part of an ongoing effort to spur interest in STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and math. "Right now, we still have a good cohort of scientists and engineers who design our future," Nakhmani said in an interview posted on al.com. "Unfortunately, the trend is moving from the society of inventors and critical thinkers to users who don't understand the principles of science and technology. If this trend persists, any progress on medicine, science and technology will be delayed, and the only way to reverse the trend is by providing adequate STEM education."
In addition to helping parents and students understand the importance of STEM, Nakhmani says events such as this one also help SOE faculty by providing critical feedback that helps educators understand the interests, needs, and expectations of upcoming generations of college students.
The event was organized by Muirhead Graham (M&G) Technologies.
Two UAB biomedical engineering students recently attended an event hosted by the UNCF Merck Science Initiative at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
Ophelia Johnson and Donovan White were named UNCF Merck Undergraduate Research Fellows in the spring. They were joined by UAB biology student Quincy Jones, who also was named a UNCF Merck Fellow.
The three UAB students were among just 15 undergraduates selected nationally. In addition to the trip to the NIH, each Fellow will present a research project at Merck & Company’s research and development facility this fall.
Each UNCF Merck Fellow receives a $25,000 award. The BME students may share their award with the department in the form of a departmental grant worth up to $10,000 per award.
Douglas H. Ross, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering since 2009, successfully defended his dissertation on July 10 to earn a Ph.D. in Computer and Information Sciences.
Ross earned a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois, Champaign in 1979. He went on to work a variety of engineering positions in Illinois before relocating to Birmingham and joining UAB in 2002. He earned a master’s degree from UAB in computer science with a specialization in computer graphics in 2007.
In his role as an assistant professor in ME, Ross has primarily focused on freshman-level classes. He taught the computer methods for engineering for several years and has taught the engineering graphics class as part of the FYE since 2008. He has mentored numerous introduction to engineering projects, including the Sumobots competition he introduced this past spring. He also teaches numerical methods, machine design and automated manufacturing.
Ross is also the School of Engineering representative for the UAB QEP of "Learning in a Team Environment".