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Technology that takes a village

April 08, 2010

Sumo robots, new iPhone apps, simulated airplane landings and a virtual tour of the human body are among the projects that will be on display at the spring Prime the Pipeline Showcase – projects created by East Valley high school juniors in collaboration with teachers, professors and college student mentors.

The Prime the Pipeline Project (P3), funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, has been bringing high school students and teachers together with ASU faculty and undergraduate mentors since spring 2009 to develop students’ interest and knowledge in science, technology, engineering and math. Participants form “scientific villages,” or project groups, in which they collaborate, experiment, and complete one major project over the course of an eight-week session.

The grant is managed by the Center for Practice, Research and Innovation in Mathematics Education located on ASU’s Tempe Campus.

“During high school, students rarely have the opportunity to not only learn about careers in the various science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, but to actually get a taste of the kind of work STEM professionals do,” says Carole Greenes, associate vice provost for STEM Education and principal investigator for the Pipeline project.

“The ‘Prime the Pipeline Project: Putting Knowledge to Work’ does just that. Students engage with scientists in the solution of workplace challenges, using the same types of technology and addressing the same types of issues,” Greenes says. “We believe that this experience will increase the number of students who enter college ready and eager to pursue STEM majors.”

Andy Cornejo, one of the Rockets and Robots villagers, designed and built model rockets and “Sumo Robots” with engineering professors Mark Henderson and Brad Rogers in the College of Technology and Innovation. Cornejo and his peers found the activity improved their problem-solving skills while giving them a chance to get a firsthand look at a variety of science careers.

“I want to go into medicine, but I might end up in engineering. Building robots is the most interesting thing we’ve done so far, and I am able to test the waters of different careers,” says Cornejo, a junior at Higley High who has been in the program since its inception.

For Emily Kolnitys, a Highland High student, finding the right solution to a problem taught a valuable lesson. “Problem-solving was the most difficult part of designing the robot,” she says. “There are so many places where the problem could be – the housing, the programming, the wires, or just a dead battery.”

Their final sumo robot designs will compete against robots built by other teams at the showcase.

Participants in the Aviation Village experience an overview in piloting, including an introduction to the scientific principles of flight, practice and history of flight instruments, aviation mathematics, and the forces involved in flight from ASU aviation lecturers Jim Anderson and Al Mittelstaedt.

“We’ve been in the simulators right from the beginning, learning to fly and navigate,” says Ayla Perez, a Highland High student. “Of course, a couple people crashed their first time. There’s so much to look at and so many instruments you need to watch.”

Two students will demonstrate landing an aircraft at the showcase, using professional flight simulators.

Students in the Trauma Simulation Village, led by Jon Howell and Eric Perez from the East Valley Institute of Technology, have researched the normal anatomy of the human body and functions of organs from the brain to the bladder, as well as a variety of disorders of each structure, and then created 2-D organ models using Adobe Flash, Photoshop and Illustrator to depict the human body.

“Learning how to use the computer programs was a challenge,” says student Ray Song, who plans to go into medicine, “but I was interested in the body parts and the anatomy.”

The “See C” Village, run by ASU engineering professor Tim Lindquist, covers the programming language used to develop software applications for Apple devices. Students in this village progressed through a number of team projects to develop and test new applications for the iPod and iPhone.

“We’re working on simple applications, but the syntax was challenging to learn,” says Williams Field High School junior Alex Iadiccico. “The programming we’ve done in the past was pretty basic, nothing like this.”

The showcase will be held at 4:15 p.m., April 13, in the Cooley Ballroom on ASU’s Polytechnic campus. It’s free to the public. For more information, contact Stephanie Weight at or (480) 727-0909.

Written by Kari Stallcop

Media contact:
Chris Lambrakis