ARISE at the Intersection of STEM, Culture, & Catapults

Before heading to NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering and College of Arts and Sciences labs to conduct research alongside graduate students, postdocs and professors, the thirty seven 2015 Applied Research in Science and Engineering (ARISE) high school students round out their scientific knowledge with theoretical and practical training in the courses Basic Robotics to Inspire Scientific Knowledge (BRISK) and Dimensions of Scientific Inquiry (DSI). DSI, taught by Dr. Brendan Matz, professor of science and technology studies at NYU SoE and the Gallatin School, provides an overview of scientific methods and practices within a social, cultural, political, and economic context, ethical considerations, and science writing. BRISK, taught by Shishir Malav, who received his Masters from NYU SoE in Computer Engineering, teaches students about data collection, data analysis and the scientific method through hands-on robotics exercises using LEGO Mindstorm kits.

Dehaan Rahman01Deehan, an ARISE student entering his senior year of high school, who will be working in Professor Masoud Ghandehari’s Optical Sensing Lab was particularly interested in the history of science’s societal impact discussed in DSI, “We look through many controversial topics such as the Challenger Project by NASA…and we understand how it affects society while at the same time we discuss ways to solve the issues that arise from these controversies. I think the subject matter we discuss in this class is important for scientists and engineers because it alters the way they should conduct their work…(it) allowed me to understand how ethics plays a major role in science as it struggles to take into consideration everyone involved in its projects. It allowed me to understand how much thought must be put into science projects due to the social implications that they can come with. ”

Dolly Davashryee

Rising senior Dolly, who will be working on a project under the supervision of Professor Shivendra Panwar in the Center for Advanced Technology in Telecommunications noted that DSI, “gives you a summary of certain conditions and practices that universally exist within the scientific community. This class teaches you many things that you need to know in order to succeed as a researcher such as how and why it’s important to get funding, the importance of conveying your ideas and the importance of being honest with your findings when experimenting.”


BRISK gave ARISE student Samantha, who will be conducting research in Professor Rastislav Levicky’s Bio-Interfacial Engineering and Diagnostics Lab, a hands-on opportunity to program a robot to carry out simple commands, “I find my Robotics class so very valuable because it allows me to fully immerse myself in the application of math and science. While I have taken computer science classes in the past I don’t have any experience with programming robots. After my first Robotics class, it instantly occurred to me that programming can be completely understandable and frankly, completely exciting.


Sonia, who will be working in Professor Chris Rushlow’s Developmental Genomics Lab says that robotics, “…creates an environment that inspires ingenuity and imagination.” Although Sonia’s primary interest is in Life Sciences, she clearly maximized the potential of her time in BRISK, “On a whim, my partner and I decided to build a robot that would roam around until its touch sensors hit a wall, at which point it would play a short tune (of our own composition) and then continue on its way.  Building the robots also lent an opportunity to perform simple physics experiments: by using the computer software corresponding with our robot, we were able to use the robot’s color sensors to switch a timer on and off.  This allowed us to measure the time it took an object to fall and calculate its acceleration. We also built a catapult to launch the object back into the air—who can resist a catapult?”

Following the two weeks studying BRISK and DSI, ARISE students will disperse to begin work in 16 different labs across NYU. While time in the lab allows them to gain hands-on knowledge and experience, BRISK and DSI provide the students with information and background to understand their research within the broader scope of the STEM community, to see how various STEM fields intersect, and to think critically about their time in the lab.

The ARISE program is generously funded by The Pinkerton Foundation and the The Driskill Foundation.