Learning by teaching helps grad student master his studies

October 10, 2011

One Arizona State University student has found an out-of-the-ordinary way to deepen his knowledge of his field of study: teaching the tough subjects to other students.

“Sunder” Karthik (full name Punnai Sunderkarthik Anantha Krishnan) is pursuing a master’s degree in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. As much as he wants to be an engineer, Karthik also aspires to be a teacher. He says he performs at his best academically when he’s also instructing fellow students in the fundamentals of engineering and science. ASU student tutors others Download Full Image

“His passion is teaching. That’s what motivates him,” says Joyce Donahue, a career advising coordinator for the engineering schools.

Karthik has developed Eneradi.com, a website on which he posts instructional videos offering simplified versions of lectures from electrical engineering classes. In the past three months he has posted 32 lectures on the site that so far have drawn about 3,000 views from users in at least 28 countries. (The website name Eneradi is a combination of “energy” and the name of the first pupil Karthik ever tutored, his younger brother Aditya.)

He also is conducting free tutoring sessions for fellow ASU engineering students struggling with their physics lessons and review sessions for close to 30 freshmen who need help learning calculus.

Karthik recalls his own difficulties grasping the challenging material students must strive to master in engineering and science courses. He says he has learned the value of “being able to break down the most complex of concepts into their simplest forms” and then building on a rudimentary understanding to gain insight into a subject.

He sees that approach as the basis of good teaching, and “what can make the difference between a student hating or loving a subject.”

Garrett Austin, an industrial engineering major in ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College, attests to Karthik's teaching abilities. After tutoring by Karthik, Austin says, “I felt more prepared for my recent physics exam than any test I’ve taken.”

Physics is a “weed-out” class, Austin says, one that can often discourage students from continuing in an engineering or science major. He says Karthik’s perseverance and teaching skill has likely prevented at least several students from giving up.

Sepideh Jafarzadeh, a sophomore majoring in aerospace engineering, was the first ASU student Sunder tutored.  Jafarzadeh struggled through her introductory physics course and says she was overwhelmed at the thought of fighting through another semester of study. Karthik led her through a careful review of all the physics concepts she had trouble understanding. She recalls being “shocked” at how easily and completely Karthik helped her grasp the material that at first she found so confusing.

“He truly cares about the students learning the concepts, and not just memorizing them” Jarfarzadeh says.

One student from Sudan posted this comment on the Eneradi.com website about Karthik’s video lectures: “Thank you for the great videos, am watching them all.”

A student from Michigan posted “Thank you so much, man. (You are) saving lives, one video at a time.”

Karthik says he benefits as much as those he is tutoring: “I must have a clear understanding of something to teach it to others. Whatever I’m teaching, I’m also learning it more thoroughly.”

Whatever career path he pursues after graduation, he is determined that it will include teaching.

“His dedication and love for it is apparent by the excitement he expresses whenever he talks about tutoring other students,” Donahue says. “He’s found his unique talent.”

Written by Natalie Pierce

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


ASU spin out wins Cleantech Open Regional competition

October 10, 2011

Arbsource, a spin out company from Arizona State University, is the winner of the Rocky Mountain Cleantech Open regional final for the Air, Water and Waste category. Arbsource uses biotechnology to transform wastewater treatment from a costly energy liability into a valuable resource for food and beverage companies.

Mission of the Cleantech Open is to find, fund and foster the big ideas that address today’s most urgent energy, environmental and economic challenges. The Cleantech Open has established itself as the leader in developing clean technology startup entrepreneurs addressing these challenges. Since its inception in 2006, nearly 400 promising teams have availed themselves of the Cleantech Open’s one-of-a-kind, hands-on work force development, nurturing and funding programs. Download Full Image

“Selection as regional winners of the Cleantech Open is most valuable for the validation of our team and business model by some very experienced judges in the VC arena, among others,” said Mark Sholin, founder and CEO of Arbsource. “The motivational boost this win provides will continue to accelerate the speed at which we introduce our ARBCell biotechnology to market. Most of all, it’s reassuring that our young management team in such an early stage of progress can successfully compete with companies led by experienced entrepreneurs who have already been in development for years.”

Each Regional Final team has won a “Startup in a Box” prize package that includes combined cash and in-kind services worth up to $20,000. Finalists from all six regions (California, North-Central, Northeast, Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountain and South-Central) will convene for a final showdown in November at the Cleantech Open 2011 Global Forum in San Jose, Calif.

Sholin is a former doctoral student and graduate research associate at Arizona State University, where he served an integral role in designing the ARBCell. He also is listed as a co-inventor.

The ARBCell biological reactor system can cut the cost of wastewater treatment for many food and beverage manufacturing companies by 50 percent or more through reduced energy consumption and maintenance. Unlike competitors, hydrogen gas is generated as a byproduct, which serves as a valuable and versatile commodity compared to methane.

Arbsource offers customers a payback period of four years or less and provides up to a 70 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions related to wastewater treatment. Doing business with Arbsource will help customers to reduce their electricity bills and add value to their waste resources.

“Arbsource is yet another example of transformational technology being created at ASU,” said Charlie Lewis, vice-president of venture development for Arizona Technology Enterprises. “By winning the Rocky Mountain Cleantech Open Regional, Arbsource has demonstrated that it not only has developed a great product, but also has the entrepreneurial talent to bring the product to market.”

The startup company is currently in the ASU Edson student entrepreneur accelerator, based at the SkySong Innovation Center in Scottsdale.

Charlie Lewis, charlie.lewis@asu.edu
(480) 884-1993

Director, Media Relations and Strategic Communications