Engineering Open House to show off students' skills

February 13, 2013

Family Day features robots, rockets, race cars, remote-control aircraft, renewable energy and more

Engineering students at Arizona State University are stepping into the spotlight to showcase their design creativity and technological prowess. Open House demo Download Full Image

“We love to show off,” says mechanical engineering major Jonathan Topliff.  

“We’re excited about what we’re doing. We go a lot of nights without sleep, working on our projects,” he says. “We’re dreaming of designing things that will change the world. So, if given a chance, we’re going to go on and on telling you about everything we’re doing.”

A big show-off opportunity arrives Saturday, March 2, at the second annual ASU Engineering Open House Family Day. Hundreds of students in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering will present exhibits and demonstrations of their knowledge and skills – including many interactive attractions – designed to both entertain and educate.  

Endeavors in rocketry, remote-control aircraft, video game development, underwater robotics, race car design, steel bridge building and more will be on display at the free event on ASU’s Tempe campus from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Among highlights will be a trebuchet demonstration. The 20-foot-high catapult-like device will be used by Topliff’s team to launch melons skyward, an activity he says has been an effective way to lure youngsters into learning some basic principles of math and mechanics.

The Open House crowd will see many other examples of engineering in action, says chemical engineering major Joe Carpenter.

Demonstrations of projects to develop renewable energy sources, harness solar power or use nanotechnology to make better computers and cell phones, among others, will reflect genuine research efforts, not simply class assignments, Carpenter says.

“I think one of the traits of engineering students is that we are drawn to challenges. We like to take on the tough problems,” he says. “I think you’ll see students going above and beyond to put on a good show.”

The event has drawn more than 70 student teams – along with some faculty members – to prepare exhibits, says Katelyn Keberle, a materials science and engineering major who joined Topliff, Carpenter and several other students in organizing the event.

She says nearly all branches of engineering will be represented – from civil, environmental, electrical and chemical to mechanical, aerospace, materials, computer science, computer systems and biomedical engineering.

In addition, a number of the university’s labs, where students often assist in advanced research led by faculty members, will be open for tours.

“We want to give the public a better idea of all the things engineering makes happen in the world,” Keberle says. “Plus, we want to show the cool stuff we’re doing.”

The cool stuff will include the Vex Robotics State Championship Tournament. Throughout the day, 24 teams of middle school and high school students, and six teams of college students, will compete in different divisions for chances to advance to national and world championship Vex Robotics tournaments.

Last year’s inaugural Engineering Open House Family Day drew almost 1,000 visitors, plus more than 1,300 young students who attended a special field trip day for grades three and higher on the Friday before the Saturday public event.

The success of the 2012 Open House has helped boost interest in field trip day this year. More than 1,600 students in grades three through eight are expected to participate. A jump in the Saturday crowd is also expected.

To learn more about the event, visit the Engineering Open House website.

Registration is encouraged, but not required. The first 500 registered guests who check in with their Eventbrite ticket at the information booth at the Student Recreation Complex fields, located in the southeast corner of campus, will receive a Fulton Engineering water bottle.

Visit the EventBrite site for registration and tickets.

All guests who check in will be entered into prize drawings held at noon and 3 p.m. You do not need to be present to win.

Your Passport to Engineering: At the event information desk, children can also pick up their Engineering Open House Passport. As they visit the exhibits noted as Passport Activities, they will receive a stamp. Showing their completed passport at the information booth on the Student Recreation Complex fields will get them a gift and an entry into a drawing for a cool engineering prize.

Along with the Engineering Open House, the ASU Tempe campus will be the site of two additional free public events on March 2 focusing on the sciences, engineering, technology, the arts and humanities.

Night of the Open Door will be presented by ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, with partners including ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, the Center for Science and the Imagination, and the Biodesign Institute.

In addition, Emerge will present an entertaining fusion of arts, technology and visionary thinking with performances, exhibits and interactive demonstrations.

The Engineering Open House, Night of the Open Door and Emerge are part of the Arizona SciTech Festival, a series of more the 200 events that make up a state-wide celebration of science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM).

There will be free parking on campus during each of the events on March 2 at the Apache parking structure at College Avenue and Apache Boulevard, the Rural and Tyler Street parking structures, and on the north side of the Gammage Auditorium parking lot.

Find parking locations on the campus map.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Redefining English for the 21st century

February 14, 2013

If you think that studying English means spending four years poring over Shakespeare classics, then think again. Thanks to Maureen Daly Goggin, department chair, the ASU Department of English is redefining what it means to earn an English degree.

A growing trend in higher education has given rise to a movement in which departments and disciplines at a university must be transdisciplinary in nature to prosper and foster well-rounded graduates. A pioneer of this movement, Arizona State University has ensured that students can study in various disciplines and learn from faculty who are presenting groundbreaking research in their fields. Download Full Image

Concentrations such as film and media studies, creative writing, literature, rhetoric and linguistics are available to all students – and within each specialization, the curriculum may take a student to areas such as sustainability, the social sciences, art and even gaming.

Jeff Holmes, a graduate English student and a fellow with the Center for Games and Impact, says his studies in the Department of English have led to opportunities he never thought possible. In fact, after earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from ASU, he is now working on a doctorate.

“For me, one of the most exciting things about working in the English Department is that it expands my perspectives, not limits them," Holmes says. "The department can support things like videogames and sewing circles as authentic spaces and practices that deserve as much attention as the 'classics.' In a way, it helps promote broader cultural awareness and critique.”

But working with video games isn’t just 'fun and games,' Holmes says, as he find that the critical thinking and creativity required of gaming interests him most of all.

“There are lots of other great games and experiences, from Portal to World of Warcraft to Minecraft,” he says. “What drives me to study them and use them is that they allow for such a broad range of thinking about and experiencing the world, and provide opportunities to think very deeply about myself and others and how we relate to the world around us.”

New avenues for research, outreach

The faculty members in the English Department are delving into new and innovative projects as well. Professor Joe Lockard has created the Prison English program, in which he and selected students conduct literacy and creative writing courses to inmates in the Penitentiary of New Mexico and Florence State Prison.

Lockard is also involved with “Project Yao,” which brings together faculty from across the globe to catalogue and translate early American works of literature into Chinese.

Associate professor Ron Broglio conducts research on how animals inform what it means to be human, while associate professor Peter Goggin researches the rhetoric of sustainability on smalls island nations that call attention to the complexities of doing sustainability work and ultimately challenge the notion that globalization has flattened the world. 

Professor Laura Tohe combines family history and American history in her work on Native American World War II Code Talkers, and professor Melissa Pritchard has become well known for her work with the military and the Afghan Women’s Writing Project.  

Goggin says: “I want to foster work that is extremely creative. We have amazing scholars in this department. They have built international reputations, and I want to be sure they have space to build their careers.”

The department is also expanding its global reach. Goggin says one of her goals is to build exchange programs and teaching opportunities for students and faculty internationally. Several faculty members already have traveled to Austria and Romania to teach.

With the assistance of School of International Letters and Cultures professor Ileana Orlich, the Department of English secured a partnership with the Romanian government to allow for cross-continental exchanges of scholars and ideas. The Central European Cultural Collaborative (CECC) so far has brought actors to perform and scholars to teach courses at ASU. The agreement also has provided for a course in silk making.

Looking ahead, Goggin says the department is building a new concentration in sciences and the imagination that further supports this type of cross-disciplinary vision. Titled “future studies,” the program will ask students to take a proactive look at the future instead of the reactive stance we as humans are accustomed to.

“As knowledge making now takes place in lots of spaces – nonprofits, government, corporations and private businesses – universities across the country are reworking programs to prepare students for the rapid changes in the 21st century. The work that takes place in the English Department is an effort to contribute to those important changes,” Goggin says.

The Department of English and School of International Letters and Cultures are academic units in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.