Science Fair Adventure Continues at SMU

The adventure continues July 30-Aug. 4 for 46 Texas Science and Engineering Fair winners from across the state at a free, residential camp hosted at SMU and taught by some of its most prestigious faculty members.

DALLAS (SMU)The adventure continues July 30-Aug. 4 for 46 Texas Science and Engineering Fair winners from across the state at a free, residential camp hosted at SMU and taught by some of its most prestigious faculty members.

Thanks to a grant from the Texas Workforce Commission, the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education’s 2017 Governor’s Science and Technology Champions’ Academy is being offered at no cost to the participants.  The goal of the grant is to encourage promising students to pursue careers in science and technology. Students will get to choose their own focus: drone-powered research, cyber security, fossil research and exhibit preparation, micro-robotics or geothermal heat mapping.

“These students will get to spend a week living on campus and working on cutting-edge research with SMU professors and students,” said Heather Hankamer, director of K-12 outreach in the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education in the Lyle School of Engineering and president of the Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair.  “Can you imagine preparing fossils for an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution with guidance from a world-renowned paleontologist, or building micro robots under the supervision of an international nanotechnology pioneer? It’s going to be exciting.”

The five research teams will present their findings at 1 p.m. Friday, Aug. 4, in the SMU’s Hughes-Trigg Theater.

Student research teams will include:

Sea Monsters Unearthed

Students will work with Louis Jacobs, SMU professor of paleontology and one of the world’s foremost authorities on dinosaurs, mososaurs and other prehistoric creatures, in preparing fossils related to the tectonic opening of the South Atlantic Ocean and the prehistoric separation of Africa and South America. The fossils will be part of an an exhibition for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., where they will be viewed by as many as 7 million annually.

Building and Controlling Micro Robots     

Students will work with SMU international micro/nanorobotics and biophysics pioneer MinJun Kim to study and build micro robots, formulate fluid mediums for them to travel through, then control the micro particles through a series of different devices. Students will perform a comparative study between the different micro robots, evaluate their performance, and be introduced to basic image processing techniques to extract position and velocity data from the micro rob ots.

Hardware Hacking

Almost all integrated circuits contain a set of four pins – a test port – that

can also serve as a backdoor for hackers who want to steal information from the chip, overwrite memories, or maliciously reconfigure a device.  Jennifer Dworak, associate professor in SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering will lead students as they design their own systems to protect a piece of hardware from intruders, and test the efficacy of their systems by trying to hack into each other's boards.  

Drone Communications

Unmanned Aerial Systems, better known as drones, offer a new perspective on wireless research. Students will be using drones and programmable smartphones to develop and perform measurement-based studies around the Dallas area to collect key wireless data, such as received signal strength and location.

Geothermal Heat Collection & Mapping

Maria Richards, who directs SMU’s renowned Geothermal Energy Lab, will work with students in measuring heat flow - the movement of heat from within the earth to the surface, which allows scientists to understand (among other things) the difference between average annual weather patterns at a location.  The group will collect temperature readings from various campus locations, compare historical data, and learn about the impact of buildings on the heat at the surface of Earth. Students will use the Geothermal Lab equipment for temperature logging.