High school students visit mechanical engineering lab on campus

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Mechanical engineering sophomore Mark Jennings talks about robotics and how they function to the UT Austin TACC summer camp students. High school juniors can visit the rehabilitation and neuromuscular lab as part of a summer camp.

Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

High school students participating in a summer camp visited the Cockrell School of Engineering on Thursday to learn about the various robots in the rehabilitation and neuromuscular lab.

The camp, CODE @ Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) is sponsored by UT and enables high school juniors to learn more about science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, careers through various hands-on projects. The students who participate in this project consist of mostly minority students who generally have limited access to computing resources and technology.

Participants met with research assistants in the ReNeu Robotics Lab, which specializes in creating robotic rehabilitation devices to improve the quality of life for the disabled and elderly.

High school junior Aishat Kolawole, participant at CODE @ TACC, said the camp has provided many experiences by allowing students to visit different campuses with labs. Kolawole also said she hopes to pursue a career in biomedical engineering to build rehabilitation and neuromuscular robots that will help people like her mom.

“My mom has sickle cell anemia and it’s hard for her to do certain things,” Kolawole said. “I want to create a model that can help people like that or people who have physical disabilities, like arthritis or joint problems.”

Sarosh Nandwani, mechanical engineering and anthropology junior, and undergraduate research assistant at the lab, said it’s important to show students at this age what opportunities will be available to them in the future.

“This camp is very open to minority students so it brings a lot of people that we don’t normally see in engineering because there aren’t nearly enough minorities or women that we have,” Nandwani said. “I think exposing them to robotics in high school will allow them to get more interested in it and potentially go to college for it.”

Mechanical engineering graduate student Youngmok Yun, and graduate research assistant in the lab, said participants will get a better understanding of why STEM fields are important and the results they provide.

“Many students, including me when I was a high school student, think this kind of science and mathematics are boring,” Yun said. “It is kind of boring, but the result is not boring. It’s fascinating. They will understand why they have to study this boring mathematics after seeing the real products. It may help to give them bigger motivation [to study in the STEM fields].”