Christofer Baldwin is an undergraduate studying biomedical engineering here at the U of A. This past December, he had the opportunity to deliver a presentation to students at the Don Tyson School of Innovation in Springdale. Below, he reports on his experience:
On December 15, 2016, I was asked to give a presentation to the Environmental and Spatial Technologies (EAST) Lab and Medical Science students at the Don Tyson School of Innovation in Springdale. The School of Innovation is a newly-founded school that offers a curriculum based on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) rather than a traditional public school curriculum. Eighth and ninth graders participate in mastery and project-based learning activities to earn credits towards graduation. Sophomores through seniors are enrolled in concurrent credit college courses to graduate high school as well as earn an associate’s degree through Northwest Arkansas Community College.
The EAST Lab students I engaged with were involved in a number of projects, including 3D printing. I was amazed to see the quality of equipment they were using and how they were already applying the knowledge they had learned to advanced projects. The bulk of my presentation was about my experience as an undergraduate research assistant in the AM3 Lab run by Dr. Zhou through the mechanical engineering department here at the U of A. My goal in presenting was to offer students insight into what it’s really like to conduct research in a college-level 3D printing lab; on any given day, you could be reading various research articles, conducting mechanical property testing, designing a printer head for a new 3D printer, or applying our research to certain biomedical and medical problems. Based on the students’ prior knowledge, I had to explain to them what each of these tasks meant in basic terms and they were able to catch on quickly. At the end, I gave a very brief overview of what I would be doing in Dr. Rao’s research lab because most of the students hadn’t had enough experience in biology to understand stem cell research and its applications.
Moving forward, I plan to return to the School of Innovation and visit other schools in the northwest Arkansas area because I believe that it is very beneficial for us as college-level students to engage with the local school districts and share our experiences with younger students. High school and junior high students need these outreach programs to learn what to expect from college and which particular research field(s) may interest them. It’s the conversations you have with younger generations that spark their interest in new knowledge and learning, and who knows? I may have influenced a junior high student to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering one day.