Posts about undergraduate students

Green Technology Innovation by College Engineering Students

With prizes totaling more than $100,000 in value, this year’s Climate Leadership Challenge is believed to be the most lucrative college or university competition of its kind in the country. The contest was open to all UW-Madison students.

A device that would help provide electricity efficiently and at low cost in rural areas of developing countries took the top prize – $50,000 – this week in a student competition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for innovative ideas to counteract climate change.

The “microformer” is the brainchild of Jonathan Lee, Dan Ludois, and Patricio Mendoza, all graduate students in electrical engineering. Besides the cash prize, they will receive a promotional trip worth $5,000 and an option for a free one-year lease in the University Research Park’s new Metro Innovation Center on Madison’s east side.

“We really want to see implementation of the best ideas offered,” said Tracey Holloway, director of the Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment at UW-Madison, which staged the contest for the second year in a row. “The purpose of this competition is to make an impact on climate change.”

The runner-up for the “most action-ready idea” was a proposal to promote the use of oil from Jatropha curcas plants to fuel special cooking stoves in places like Haiti. UW-Madison seniors Eyleen Chou (mechanical engineering), Jason Lohr (electrical engineering), Tyler Lark (biomedical engineering/mathematics) won $10,000 for their scheme to reduce deforestation by lowering demand for wood charcoal as a cooking fuel.

CORE Concept, a technology that would cut emissions from internal combustion engines by using a greater variety of fuels, won mechanical engineering doctoral students Sage Kokjohn, Derek Splitter, and Reed Hanson $15,000 as the “most innovative technical solution.”

SnowShoe, a smart phone application that would enable shoppers to check the carbon footprint of any item in a grocery store by scanning its bar code, won $15,000 as the “most innovative non-technical solution.” Graduate students Claus Moberg (atmospheric and oceanic science), Jami Morton (environment and resources), and Matt Leudtke (civil and environmental engineering) submitted the idea.

Other finalists were REDCASH, a plan to recycle desalination wastewater for carbon sequestration and hydrogen fuel production, by doctoral student Eric Downes (biophysics) and senior Ian Olson (physics/engineering physics); and Switch, an energy management system that integrates feedback and incentives into social gaming to reduce personal energy use, by doctoral students David Zaks (environment and resources) and Elizabeth Bagley (environment and resources/educational psychology).

Related: University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Challenge AgainCollegiate Inventors Competition$10 Million X Prize for 100 MPG Car

Undergraduate Student Discovers Herbivorous Spider

Herbivory Discovered in a Spider

A jumping spider from Central America eats mostly plants, according to new research. Spiders were thought to be strictly predators on animals. The spider, Bagheera kiplingi, was described scientifically in the late 1800s, but its vegetarian tendencies were not observed until the 21st century.

“This is the first spider in the world known to deliberately hunt plant parts. It is also the first found to go after plants as a primary food source,” said lead author Christopher Meehan.

Of the approximately 40,000 species of spiders known, Bagheera kiplingi is the only species known to be primarily herbivorous. Ironically, the vegetarian spider is named after the panther in Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book.” The spider inhabits several species of acacia shrubs involved in a well-known mutualism between the acacias and several species of ants.

Previously, very few spiders had been seen consuming plants at all. Some spiders had been observed occasionally eating nectar and pollen, although the bulk of their diet was insects and other small animals.

Related: Leafhopper Feeding a GeckoBunny and Kittens: Friday Cat Fun #5Symbiotic relationship between ants and bacteria

HHMI Science Internships

Undergraduate Scholars Live the Scientific Life at Janelia Farm

With Janelia Farm lab heads as their mentors, the students have delved into projects that include identifying the neurons that control feeding behavior in fruit flies, designing better labeling molecules for use with sophisticated microscopy techniques, increasing the longevity of dragonflies, and developing computer programs for automated image analysis. The Janelia environment, they said, provides a unique opportunity to focus intently on research.

The summer program offers students more than just hands-on experience in the lab – it aims to expose them to a more complete picture of what it is to work and think as a scientist does. An important component of the program is a weekly seminar in which students present their work to one another and field questions. Likewise, scholars are encouraged to attend the campus’s frequent seminars, conferences, and journal clubs, for exposure to research other their own.

For Gloria Wu, who is majoring in biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, the interdisciplinary nature of research at Janelia Farm and the diversity of backgrounds among her fellow scholars were important assets. “A lot of students are coming from math or computer science backgrounds, and that really stimulates a lot of discussion between us, so we can see other approaches to solving biological questions. That is something really wonderful about this program,” she said.

Related: Summer Jobs for Smart Young MindsInternships Pair Students with Executivesscience internship directory

Another Survey Shows Engineering Degree Results in the Highest Pay

The PayScale salary survey looked at both starting and mid career salary. Engineering topped both measures. Of the top 10 mid career salaries, 7 were engineering degrees – including the top 4. The survey is based upon data for full-time employees in the United States who possess a Bachelor’s degree and no higher degrees and have majored in the subjects listed above.

The top 11 paying degrees are:

Highest Paid Undergrad College Degrees
Degree Starting Median Salary Mid-Career Median Salary
Aerospace Engineering $59,600 $109,000
Chemical Engineering $65,700 $107,000
Computer Engineering $61,700 $105,000
Electrical Engineering $60,200 $102,000
Economics $50,200 $101,000
Physics $51,100 $98,800
Mechanical Engineering $58,900 $98,300
Computer Science $56,400 $97,400
Industrial Engineering $57,100 $95,000
Environmental Engineering $53,400 $94,500
Statistics $48,600 $94,500

Related: Engineering Graduates Paid Well Again in 2008High Pay for Engineering Graduates in 2007Engineering Graduates Get Top Salary Offers in 2006posts on science and engineering careersposts on engineering education

How To Become A Software Engineer/Programmer

How To Become A Software Engineer/Programmer

my advice for budding software engineers is this.

1) Know that you love software before you commit to it. You’ll know when you take your first pseudocode class: a clear division forms between the people who get it and the people who don’t. If you’re in the “don’t” section, choose another career.

2) If you don’t like teaching yourself new things, the skills you learn today will be irrelevant in less than a decade. Accept the commitment to learn throughout your career as a coder, or accept your eventual fate as a has-been.

3) College degrees matter less than hands-on knowledge and time spent at the keyboard. I outpaced my entire class in college because I bought my own programming books that deviated from the coursework, and as a result I learned things they were not teaching in school.

5) Early on, decide if you want to focus on application development or software engineering. Application development deals with making user interfaces, interfacing different systems together, solving business process problems, and exposing applications to the outside world (i.e. web services and other remoting techniques). Software engineering deals with creation of utilities and processes that support information processing, tends to be more math intensive, requires a lower-level understanding of the trade, and rarely deals with the systems that expose the software to an end user. There are core differences in these two disciplines and 100 shades in between, so figure out what you like.

Good blog post; those thinking of a career in software development should read the whole thing. By the way if you are a programmer already that loves it and looking for a new position: my work is hiring a Ruby on Rails developer.

Related: Joy in Work, Software DevelopmentThe Software Developer Labor MarketA Career in Computer ProgrammingThe Manager FAQIT Talent Shortage, or Management Failure?

DoE: Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program

The United States Department of Education’s Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP) provides funds to schools to provide awards to students. 20 new awards (average value of $139,000) were awarded this year. That brings total funding this year to 71 awards (50 continue from previous years). Institutions recieving funds include: Clark Atlanta University, Rust College, New Mexico State University, Spelman College, Virginia State University and the College of Menominee Nation.

The program is designed to effect long-range improvement in science at predominantly minority and engineering education programs to increase the participation of underrepresented ethnic minorities, particularly minority women, into scientific and technological careers.

Wiley College, one of the new recipients, aims to increase the number of science majors, especially in the fields of biology and chemistry. A key feature of this grant is the creation of a high school science competition that will allow local and regional high school students to visit the campus and compete in a variety of scientific events.

This event will bring five area high schools together to compete in ten scientific events based on biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics. Individual first-place winners will be given scholarships to Wiley College. There will also be an overall grand champion awarded. This event will allow high school students to experience life at Wiley College and the possibilities of a career in science.

“This event not only gives students a financial reason to enroll at Wiley, but also allows them to become familiar with the campus and its faculty and students, said Dr. Shumate. “This grant also furthers a connection between Wiley and both the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of Arkansas, allowing current Wiley students to attend these schools in the summer for biomedical research.”

Wiley hosts HS science competition Saturday

Related: NSF Undergraduate STEM ScholarshipsLoan Forgiveness Program for Engineering StudentsA Life-changing GiftScience and Engineering Scholarships and Fellowships Directoryscience scholarships posts

Documentary on 5 Women Majoring in Science and Math at Ohio State

In the clip, Jennifer Jones, a civil engineering student who talks about her challenges and determination to overcome obstacles in her honors program at Ohio State University. The clip is from Gender Chip Project, a documentary following 5 women majoring in the sciences, engineering and math at Ohio State University.

Related: Women Working in ScienceWomen Choosing Other Fields Over Engineering and MathGirls in Science and EngineeringFixing Engineering’s Gender Gap

Science, Engineering and Math Fellowships

I work at the American Society for Engineering Education as an Information Technology Program Manager (this blog is not affiliated with ASEE). A large portion of the computer applications I work on are related to the science and engineering fellowships we administer. The fellowship applications are all open now (for certain fields the NSF application deadline is next week). Those fellowships include:

Other scholarships and fellowships (these are not managed by ASEE): Gates Millennium Scholars Program (January 12th deadline) – NASA Graduate Student Researchers (February 1st) – Goldwater Science Scholarships (January 30th)

Related: Science and Engineering Fellowship Applications Open NowDirectory and application advice for science and engineering scholarships and fellowships

Mentors Prepare Women for Construction Career

photo of Heather Cavitt

Mentors prepare women for construction career

Now Cavitt and other women in the construction school, a part of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering, can give themselves another advantage: Learning from pioneering women who have already risen to leadership positions in the business.

The school recently established its Advancing Women in Construction program, a key part of which is a mentorship project. More than 70 women – and several men – in the construction industry in the greater Phoenix area have signed on to mentor female students and provide them an inside look at life in the industry.

plan to increase female enrollment from less than 15 percent of total enrollment to 30 percent – or about 200 female students – within five years.

Cavitt says her favorite things about the school’s construction management program are the opportunities to learn beyond the classroom, such as internships and building-project competitions between construction students at other universities. She expects the mentoring program to add significantly to the value of her college education. “I’m excited to learn about the real-world business of construction from women who have been successful at it for many years,” she says.

photo: School of Construction student Heather Cavitt (front) will gain from the experience of Crystal Slawson (center), president of Phoenix Pipelines and Natalie Palmer, the company’s project coordinator, through the school’s Advancing Women in Construction mentorship program.

Related: Beloit College: Girls and Women in ScienceWomen Choosing Other Fields Over Engineering and MathWomen Working in ScienceFixing Engineering’s Gender Gap

Science Postercasts

I wrote about SciVee, over a year ago, saying I thought they could become a valuable resource. It has been taking longer to really get going than I thought it would but this new feature, Postercasts, is great. I am glad to see SciVee living up to my high expectation. Keep up the great work SciVee. The experience can still use improvement but this is a great start.

They have provided a tutorial on: How to Synchronize my Poster to my Video. I hope some of our readers try this out.

via: Interactive Virtual Posters

Related: Engineering TVScience WebcastsMagnetic Movie

Engineering a Better World: Bike Corn-Sheller

photo of bike maize sheller

More appropriate technology from MIT’s D-Lab.

D-Lab-developed device makes corn processing more efficient

Jodie Wu, an MIT senior in mechanical engineering, spent the summer traveling from village to village in Tanzania to introduce a new system for processing the corn: A simple attachment for a bicycle that makes it possible to remove the kernels quickly and efficiently using pedal power. The device makes processing up to 30 times faster and allows one person to complete the job alone in one day.

The basic concept for the maize-sheller was first developed in Guatemala by an NGO called MayaPedal, and then refined by Wu last semester as a class project in D-Lab: Design, a class taught by Department of Mechanical Engineering Senior Lecturer Amy Smith. Now, thanks to Wu’s efforts, the technology is beginning to make its way around the world.

Thus, the owner of a bicycle, with a small extra investment, can travel from village to village to carry out a variety of useful tasks. A simple bike thereby becomes an ongoing source of income.

Wu refined the corn-sheller system, which was originally designed as a permanent installation that required a bicycle dedicated solely to that purpose, to make it an add-on, like Kiwia’s tools, that could be easily bolted onto an ordinary bike and removed easily.

Photo shows the prototype of the attachment. Engineering that makes a significant difference in people’s lives (especially those that need it the most) is even cooler than the latest high tech gizmos in my opinion. And those new gizmos are cool.

Related: Design for the Unwealthiest 90 PercentAppropriate Technology postsWater Pump Merry-go-RoundNepalese Entrepreneur Success – Tumaini Cycles blog (by