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Professor, Students Take Engineering to Area Youth

Students in Columbus City Schools are building working speakers out of nothing but paper and magnets — and sparking their interest in STEM, the studies of science, technology, engineering and math.

This is in no small part due to Betty Lise Anderson, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, who with Ohio State engineering students is taking the initiative to bring engineering into local high schools.

Early this year, Anderson traveled to Metro Early College High School to teach students how to build the speakers. Students for STEM, a new volunteer student organization aimed at facilitating connections between Ohio State students and Columbus City Schools STEM clubs, assisted her.

“It’s not just equations and explanations of principles,” notes Hannah Gustafson, a graduate student in mechanical engineering and member of Students for STEM. “It is getting to see the equations and the principles in action.”

Students for STEM was born from the need to enrich local students’ experiences with the STEM fields, says Gustafson. The group has about 10 members.

Andrew Bruening, an engineering and environmental sciences instructor at the high school and advisor for its STEM Club, says that his students have really taken a liking to the projects Anderson and her students bring.

“With a STEM education, students will be better prepared for their future,” Bruening says. “A STEM education develops better critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration skills necessary for success in the 21st century.”

Using grant money from the university’s Office of Outreach and Engagement, Anderson is building an outreach program from scratch and has made it a priority to introduce the fundamentals of electrical and computer engineering to high school students.
“Nationally we are facing a shortage of engineers,” Anderson notes. “We need to interest more kids in the STEM fields. The best way to do that is give kids the opportunity to do interesting hands-on activities.”

Her first outreach missions included working with Battelle’s B2e (Battelle Engineer Experience) to create a short series on flat-panel display technology to take to high schools. Since then, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has developed a series of hands-on engineering activities for high school students. In fact, outreach has been made the core topic of a senior capstone design course. Students enrolled in the class interview high school teachers, develop projects and visit high schools to do the activities with students.

Projects have included constructing audio filters for MP3 players, building a motor and a motorboat, and creating an electronic “Jeopardy” quiz game where the questions are from courses the students are taking.

Anderson remains highly involved with her projects, personally visiting the schools and conducting activities while establishing a league of student and faculty volunteers who wish to see a growing outreach program. Along with volunteers from Students for STEM, students supporting Anderson in her efforts include members of Eta Kappa Nu Electrical and Computer Engineering Honor Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.