Author Archives: Troy Ramsarran

  ARISE Research Progress

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The ARISE summer research program provides select New York City high-school students with the opportunity to conduct hands-on laboratory research. Under the guidance of their NYU graduate student mentors, thirty-seven ARISE participants [pictured above] spent seven weeks this summer contributing to the research goals of sixteen labs across the NYU School of Engineering in Downtown Brooklyn, and the NYU Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Washington Square. This week, we visited the ARISE students to learn more about their research experience.

Roy, a rising senior at Staten Island Technical High School, is working alongside Dhvanil and Shantanu in Professor Vikram Kapila’s Mechatronics Lab. Together, they are mapping the motion of a human arm, in order to build a robotic arm which will aid the rehabilitation of stroke patients with hemiparesis (weakness on one side of the body). We asked Roy to describe his experience in the Mechatronics lab.

Roy-Finkelberg-2“I have been an engineer for precisely half my life. Engineering isn’t really new to me. However, it’s nice to be able to practically apply what I’ve learned in the classroom and through experience to the ARISE research program. Mechatronics is the intersection of mechanical, electrical and computer engineering. I find it incredible that high school students can come into a lab and create something so practical and useful. The feeling of figuring something out and solving a problem is really indescribable. You have to experience it for yourself. We do have engineering classes at our high school. In a large high school environment, it’s hard for everyone to apply what they’ve learned. In small individualized groups like this one, we can build things like our AC sensor and robotic arm that really show what’s possible.”

During our visit to Professor Levicky’s Bio-Interfacial and Diagnostics Lab, ARISE student Michele-Iane described learning about life as a researcher as well as learning about the specific research in her lab. Michele-Iane and her partner Samantha Paucar are working with their mentor Ursula Koniges to investigate the ability of various chemicals to aid in detection of small DNA molecules. Potential applications include identification of food and water supply contaminants, personalized medical treatments, and to discovery of molecular mechanisms behind diseases such as cancer.

Michele-lane-DetoucheAt first, my mentor would hold our hand through experiments, but now she is letting go. Lab work is a lot of responsibility, but it is also building my confidence. I love working with the tools, like syringes and the pipettes. One computer program that we used is the Nanodrop. We take a sample of DNA and put it under a machine, and that machine will record the amount of light absorbed. Seeing the visual measurements on the computer screen is really cool. My main goal coming into the ARISE program was to get a feel of engineering. I actually learned a lot about how research lab life works here. The graduate students here work as a team. They call themselves lab siblings, and I love the whole comradery of the lab. It’s awesome to be a part of this experience. I’ll remember this as probably the most productive summer of my life so far. Before going into junior year, I feel pumped and excited because I’ve been learning all summer. I’m taking this extra data analysis class for my junior year coming up, and I’m doing actual data analysis right now. In the future, I will thank myself for doing this. I feel like I’m helping myself and ARISE is helping me”.

Vicente, a rising junior at Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design, was one of the first NYU Science of Smart Cities students during the program’s pilot year in 2012, as a middle school student. Now, Vincente is back at NYU investigating the effects of pile penetration (driving columns of wood, metal, or concrete into the ground to support building construction) on surrounding soil with his mentor Sophia Mercurio in Professor Iskander’s Soil Mechanics lab.

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The first day I came in, I thought I was going to get a lecture about everything I was going to do this summer. Instead, I started out doing real lab work. I was surprised to find that I could actually do hands-on activities on my own, without my mentor constantly giving instructions. This is college work, and I was surprised that I could do it on my own. In my high school, the science and math classes involve presentations of what scientists are doing. When I come here to do research with Sophia, I get hands-on experience of what I see in the videos and presentations. I’ve always thought I was going to be a civil engineer. Going into the lab has actually fueled my passion for civil engineering.  My expectation of a scientist was someone who was always in the lab, 24/7. However, the scientists I work with in the lab are real people and not robots. They are fully committed to their work, but they also have time to take care of themselves. The ARISE experience prepared me for what I’m going to be doing. If I’m going to get into a STEM field, now I know what to expect.” 

The ARISE summer research experience is made possible by the generous support of The Pinkerton Foundation and The Driskill Foundation.

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The ‘A’ in STEAM is for arts. For the past two years, NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering’s Center for K12 STEM Education has partnered with the Irondale Ensemble Project for its Science of Smart Cities middle school engineering design and ARISE high school summer research programs. To help these students become confident presenters of scientific information, Irondale employs theatrics such as role play, improvisation and group challenges. Their practice pays off at the SoSC Expo and the ARISE Colloquium when the students explain their work to their teachers, families, reporters, and NYU students and professors. Some SoSC and ARISE students shared their thoughts on the impact of Irondale workshops:

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“In Irondale, you get the confidence you need to talk in front of many people. I actually used to be very nervous in front of people. In Irondale, we have challenges that make us stronger, and we practice to have a lot of confidence when the big day comes. The skills I have learned are confidence and stamina. I will use these skills in the future when I have a job and if I have to represent something that’s part of my career. After Irondale, I will have lot of confidence about what I’m going to explain.”  -Alan, SoSC

20150729_SoSC_Irondale_050“We learn how to speak, how to project our voice, and how to be more energetic. Later in life you can’t be shy. This Friday, we will use these skills when we are presenting. After Friday, we’ll use these skills… if we have a presentation in school so everyone would be able to hear and we might get a better grade. I wasn’t this bold before Irondale started. My voice was quiet. What I’m going to remember most are the skills and tips they taught us about presenting in general… don’t fiddle with your hair, don’t swing your arms back and forth, and remember to look around at the audience.” – Cameron, SoSC

“In Irondale, we learn how to express ourselves…get out of our comfort zone, and we learn that it’s not so bad to talk in front of crowds. Another skill we learn in Irondale is speech…when you touch and twist your clothing, bite your nails or put your hands in your pocket, you hide yourself, it seems like you’re unsure of yourself. You want to convince other people that you know what you’re talking about. Is it really difficult, to go up on stage and talk to a crowd? For me, it’s like being in a novel; you are the character, and you must present well to an audience of readers.” -Chelsea, SoSC

20150803_ARISE_Irondale006“Irondale…creates this fun atmosphere where no one’s judging each other and we’re all just having a good time while still learning. In any field, communicating one’s ideas and thoughts is vital, so Irondale not only helps us learn how to present thoughts in our colloquium, but also going forward in any situation where we need to convey our thoughts and ideas, we’ll have this skill to let people know what we’re thinking.” – Pranav, ARISE

“I think Irondale helps you project who you really are to an audience or to even to an individual. We have the colloquium on the 21st, so I think Irondale is going to be huge help for that… and in any future profession I want to get into, I feel like I have better communication skills now, I am more free to be myself…Irondale made me remember that everyone’s human and no one’s perfect. You see everyone mess up, and everyone’s being so silly, and it really makes me happy that everyone can connect by being imperfect.” – Pedro, ARISE

20150729_SoSC_Irondale_044“When you get questions thrown at you, you have to be quick on your feet. I think these skills are important in life not just ARISE, because there are going to be times where you have to present yourself a certain way, you have to look distinguished, you have to not be nervous. So being brave, being ready at a young age makes it easier in the future. When you’re looking for a job, when you’re interning…it makes that whole process easier because you’re not shy, you’re not nervous of the moment, and it makes opportunities come to you a lot easier too, because people like people that are ready, that are chivalrous, that are excited to learn.” – Ayinde, ARISE

“The skills we learn are how to be comfortable on stage, to not get nervous, to have a thorough and thought-up plan of what you’re going to say. Even if a question surprises you, you could still answer it comfortably, and use that question as a stepping stone to continue your presentation. These skills are important for everything…for presentations, for interviews as well, you feel more comfortable and you present better. Five to ten years from now, I’ll remember how Irondale Theater helped me become a better person at presenting.” – Jakub, ARISE

Thank you, Irondale, for another successful year of partnership and for providing young people with communication skills they’ll use for years to come.

 

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Forty-seven NYC middle school students have spent the past two and a half weeks of their summer at NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering’s campus in the Science of Smart Cities (SoSC) program. SoSC introduces students to concepts in science, technology and engineering with a focus on urban planning and sustainability. The curriculum includes hands-on activities surrounding energy, urban infrastructure, transportation systems and wireless communications.

In its fourth year, the curriculum, which has been developed by NYU SoE students, makes abstract science and math concepts more concrete by explaining how they apply to students’ every-day surroundings. The students design their own Smart City for an Expo at the end of the program, along with weekly group problem-solving and engineering projects. The creativity allowed by the program makes an impression on students and has a positive impact on their relationship to STEM subjects. Three interns this year, Aarti, Jaela, and Zipporah, were so drawn by the program as participants last year, they have returned to volunteer.

“I really liked how we could design our own city using what we learned. Although the instructors gave their own input, it was mostly us, so we got to learn while creating. It really gave me a different perspective on science. I used to think of it as something only used by doctors and such, but now I understand how it plays a role in our everyday lives.”  -Aarti

“I liked that we were able to do a lot of different activities, go on trips, and learn a lot about a lot of different things. The year before I came to Science of Smart Cities, I was not that great at math and science. It was just a whole bunch of numbers. Then, I learned a lot more about science…it all makes sense now. I wanted to come back because it was really fun last year, and I want to help the kids have more fun this year.”  -Zipporah

“I liked that it [SoSC] gave kids the opportunities to explore new things. My experience the first year was really fun. I got to meet a lot of new people, try a lot of new things, and I came back this year to teach kids the same thing. SoSC showed me how to have a hard drive, how to work hard towards goals. It also showed me that there’s a real output to the things we learn.”  -Jaela

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Vicente, from the Science of Smart Cities pilot year in 2012, and Ayinde, who participated in an after-school version of SoSC through Harlem Educational Activities Fund, have entered the 2015 class of NYU SoE’s high school summer research program, ARISE where they will conduct research in Professor Iskander’s Soil Mechanics Lab. SoSC shaped their views on STEM education and their decision to pursue civil and urban engineering

“SoSC introduced me to the field of STEM, so I was more conscientious about what’s going on in the world regarding STEM… it allowed me to further my STEM education and know more about it.”  -Vicente

“SoSC has helped my future in a lot of ways. It has also shaped the way I look at the planet as a whole. Before I took the course, I was just nonchalant. The course really helped me because we worked with soil mechanics, circuit boards, circuity, all connected into one, so you get a feel or a view into all different paths of science.”  -Ayinde

Science of Smart Cities piloted as a summer program at NYU in the summer of 2012. Since then, the program has been replicated off-campus as an after school program through the Harlem Educational Activities Fund, in Malaysia as Bitara STEM, and now in NYC public schools as part of the NYC Summer STEM program. SoSC is made possible with support from National Grid.

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Teacher Training

This summer, the NYU School of Engineering and the NYC Department of Education are partnering in NYCitySTEM. The initiative pairs NYU School of Engineering students with DoE teachers to provide free cutting-edge STEM programs to 7th and 10th graders across New York City. In preparation for the first week of classes, forty-three undergraduate and graduate students spent the greater part of last week training DoE teachers at the NYU School of Engineering. Teachers learned how to wire breadboards, program sensors, and build line-following, collision avoidance robots. For some teachers, this was their debut experience with STEM education. On Monday, a few teachers appeared apprehensive about their ability to bring STEM into the classroom. However, as the week progressed many teachers reported finding the hands-on activities engaging and accessible. Overall, the training was an edifying experience for the teachers and their instructors. Chris Rogers, a U.S. History teacher from IS 24 in Staten Island, discussed how he would like to bring what he learned into the classroom by having his students experiment with iambic paddles to gain a better understanding of how Morse code shaped history.

DoE teachers were pleased to work with their energetic NYU School of Engineering student instructors. According to Dwight Young, a general science teacher teacher at I.S. 285 in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, his instructors were “very patient, very knowledgeable, and very understanding.” Teachers reported that the training was a refreshingly thoughtful and immersive professional development experience. In particular, one teacher remarked that she “got a chance to build models, to build receptors using sensors, and to do what the children are going to do before actually working with them.”

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NYU School of Engineering student instructors reported positively on working with their Department of Education teachers. Instructors reported that the teachers were very engaged, energetic, and excited to become familiar with the STEM curricula. The NYU instructors embraced the challenge of working with the DoE teachers who had no prior experience with STEM subjects. Instructors discovered they had a lot to learn from their DoE teachers. During her training, Science of Smart Cities Instructor Salma Pasha learned how to apply Icebreakers and team building activities to motivate younger students. Another NYU student said that her DoE co-teacher showed her how to give constructive criticism that teenagers would understand.IMG_0584

Although a few NYU engineering students are nervous about their first time teaching, they are also game for the challenge. As Gev Manekshaw, Instructor for the 10th grade Science of Smart Cities class in Brooklyn remarked, “I think a classroom is the most dynamic environment I will ever face.”

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