08/13/2013 02:01 PM
BATON ROUGE – Through their capstone senior design class, LSU electrical engineering
students are working with K-12 students and educators on solutions for real problems
that can enhance science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or STEM, education
in area K-12 schools. In partnership with Baton Rouge Magnet High School, or BRMHS,
these LSU service-learning students are designing and delivering innovative teaching
tools to the high school’s physics class.
The first design project, a teaching centrifuge, was presented last December to BRMHS
physics teacher Lai Cao and her physics class. Cao had been searching for a centrifuge
machine to demonstrate rotational forces, but had been unable to find one that met
her specifications. The LSU design students were able to work from the specifications
provided by Cao to design and donate a centrifuge with a clear Lexan case that allows
viewers to see particles separate by centrifugation in real time.
Cao says she was able to immediately use the centrifuge machine for rotational motion
labs and for analyzing the densities of different substances. She says that her students
have “developed high critical thinking skills, and especially gained invaluable knowledge
of the design process,” through working with the LSU engineering students.
In turn, by working with BRMHS, the engineering students are gaining real-world experience
in collaborating with a partner and coming up with a co-created design that specifically
meets the partner’s needs.
“It was incredibly beneficial for our design experience to have a real customer with
specific requirements of our project,” said Steven Lowe, one of Scalzo’s students
and part of the centrifuge design team. “It made us feel proud of the work we had
done on the project to see how excited they were and to know that our project was
actually going to be used.”
This year, two senior design teams continue to work with BRMHS to create an interactive
green energy power generation work station, as well as a hand-held biometric device.
“The experience senior design gives students through the design/build/test process
prepares them for engineering careers unlike any other course,” Scalzo said. “To deliver
this experience while also giving the students all the benefits of a service-learning
experience is nothing short of amazing.”
In addition to their design project, several of the LSU students also meet with BRMHS
students regularly to discuss robotics and to provide guidance as they prepare for
local, state, regional and national competitions. The BRMHS students also have access
to LSU computer labs and the machine shop, where they build and test their robots.
In 2012, the BRMHS robotics team received the third-place trophy and won the Founder’s
Award for Creative Design at the 2012 NOLA State Boosting Engineering, Science & Technology,
or BEST, Competition in November at the University of New Orleans.
“With the high expectations for his students and understanding of the community at
our school, John has built an outstanding service-learning model which truly benefits
both college and high school students,” said Cao.
The robotics team mentoring supports another goal of Scalzo’s, which is to promote
the STEM disciplines among middle and high school students.
“There is an increasing need for developing a strong workforce in STEM disciplines
for the current and future societal needs in this high-technology era,” said Pratul
Ajmera, interim division chair of the Division of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
“John has successfully combined these two activities together in a very innovative
Service-learning classes such as Scalzo’s are supported through LSU’s Center for Community Engagement, Learning and Leadership, or CCELL. For more information on CCELL, visit www.lsu.edu/ccell.
Posted on Tuesday, August 13, 2013