RPI engineering ambassadors bring love of engineering to SG

October 1, 2014

Whether it's creating a prosthetic (artificial) leg for an avid skier, designing a smoother sailing snowboard or growing a new human kidney, engineers are at the center of the research going on to make our lives easier.

Scotia-Glenville students today learned about the potential of engineering to solve common problems being faced by the human race every day during visits by the RPI Engineering Ambassadors. In each class, they did hands-on projects working in teams designed to get students thinking about a particular issue.


Engineering affects everything

"Engineering affects just about everything you do; it's not just something for science and math students," RPI third-year biomedical engineering student Omar Abdoun, a Niskayuna graduate, told students during a presentation about creating tissues and body organs. "The important part is your creativity and your willingness to put in the hard work."

Hundreds of students heard from the RPI Engineering Ambassadors during presentations all day long held in science classes.

"Engineering teaches you how to think and employers know that," said RPI biomedical engineering student Carolyn Chlebek in response to a question asking about job potential for engineers.

During the Tissues Engineering presentation, Omar and Carolyn told students that developing a way to create new organs will save lives. "Every day, people are being put on waiting lists for organs," said Carolyn, noting that demand for new organs has exploded while the number of donated organs has not kept pace. "People are dying before they get an organ, and that's unacceptable."

They reviewed the process to create organs: manipulating cells to create tissues to create organs. They showed photos of organs - as well as an experimental hamburger - that were created in petri dishes in laboratories.

The students' activity involved creating organs out of pipe cleaners, plastic wrap and tubes that were then placed inside a skeleton. Each team was assigned a specific organ to recreate for the skeleton.

Down the hall, Carson Hutard, a junior studying engineering at RPI, was talking about the slopes during Snowboards: It's All About the Ride.

"Engineering can be fun; everything you do involves engineering," he told students.

Students created snowboard-like contraptions that could sail quickly and smoothly down a ramp. They used at least four materials - things like pipe cleaners, fabric, paper clips, etc. - to create their perfect snowboard. The winner was judged by how far it flew off the ramps.


From hook hands to bionics

During the Evolution of Prosthetics, Cara Yocum and Khalil Drayton, both third year biomedical engineering students, reviewed the long history of prosthetics (artificial limbs) - from solid wooden legs and hook hands to today's bionic limbs. They noted that humans have not been satisfied with prosthetics over the years, always trying to make them better.

"It takes 10 years or longer to develop a prosthetic limb and try it on people," said Cara. "That gives you a lot of time to test it out and make it better."

"We've advanced prosthetics to a point where you see people participating in activities that they could never do before," said Khalil.

After watching a video of a man with a prosthetic hand cracking an egg, Cara said "It's pretty cool to see how much he can do with it and how gentle he can use it (to crack the egg)," she said.

Teams of students were asked to make a prosthetic finger out of popsicle sticks and rubber bands.


RPI Engineering Ambassadors

Five teams of undergraduate students from the RPI Engineering Ambassadors program met with high school students to discuss these scientific and mathematical topics.

Snowboards: It's all about the ride – Take a journey through the history of snowboarding, and learn how a few dreamers with big ideas changed winter sports forever. From their materials and testing, to the physics of how they work, we break down snowboards to their core (literally) for one exciting ride.

Evolution of Prosthetics – This presentation covers the evolution of prosthetics and the engineering design process that governs the innovation. Topics covered will include biomechanics, action potentials and the connection of the nervous system, as well as future bionic and thought-controlled prostheses.

Imagineering the Future – A peek into how Disney engineers the theme parks we all know and love!

Tissue Engineering – This presentation will discuss the current solutions that are being developed to solve medical problems. It will focus on how engineers are working to eliminate the need for organ transplants by finding ways to create organs outside of the body.

Water Filtration – Water filtration has become an important issue, especially for third-world countries where clean drinking water is scarce. Engineers are working to develop inexpensive ways to provide drinking water to areas that have not had it in the past as well as for various domestic uses.

According to the RPI Engineering Ambassador's website:

The RPI Engineering Ambassadors are a group of RPI engineers devoted to inspiring younger students with what they are doing in their chosen major, the newest technological breakthroughs in their field, and the obstacles yet to be overcome. We do this by visiting middle schools and high schools and giving presentations to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) related classes.

Our presentations implement a new award winning style that pushes the boundaries of traditional Powerpoint use. We connect what we teach to the lives of the students with hands-on activities that pull everything together.

Here is a link to more information about the RPI Engineering Ambassadors program - http://engineeringambassadors.union.rpi.edu/index.php

“We are very pleased to invite the RPI students into our classrooms to share their first-hand knowledge with our students,” said Randy Jenkins, academic head of mathematics and science at S-G.

“This is a real up-close opportunity for our students to see education and research at the college level.”

Many thanks to these RPI students who worked with SG students today: Carolyn Chlebek, Omar Abdoun, Michaela Marquit, Elizabeth Wayne, Cara Yocum, Khalil Drayton, Carson Hotard, Marisa Sciolino, Grace Herrmann and Michael Wentworth.


Here is a link to the RPI Engineering Ambassadors' Facebook page, with many additional photos - https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1048538091839283.1073741871.300366633323103&type=1


Here are a few photos from some of today's programs. Click on the images to enlarge them.


Student photo   Student photo

Student photo   Student photo

Student photo   Student photo

Student photo   Student photo

Student photo   Student photo

Student photo   Student photo

Student photo   Student photo

Student photo   Student photo

Student photo   Student photo

   Student photo   Student photo

Student photo   Student photo

Student photo   Student photo

Student photo   Student photo

Student photo   Student photo



bottom rule