LSU Electrical Engineering Students Working with Baton Rouge High Physics

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 way.”

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

Billy  Gomila 
LSU Media Relations

Posted on Tuesday, August 13, 2013