Math Awareness Month 2016

April is Math Awareness Month, and the theme is The Future of Prediction!

MAM 2016

This year’s theme is meant to show how math and statistics are used to predict the future!

For resources to use during Math Awareness Month to explore the theme from the National Education Association for students in grades K-12, click here!

Apart from using these resources, take time to teach your students (or learn yourself) about how math is all around us. Without math, we wouldn’t have any of the cool technology we have today – we wouldn’t even have the chairs we sit on or the buildings we live/learn/play in! Math is all everywhere, but we just don’t realize it!

So, take some time to appreciate math this month!

Also, how fitting that Square Root Day (4/4/16) was in April (Math Awareness Month) this year! It’s crazy how cool math is!

UIL Robotics

In a world where knowledge of STEM is vital in choosing a career, the variety of STEM related programs in schools was limited.

However, this has been recognized as a problem that needed to be resolved, so UIL has added a robotics competition!

This year has been the first year this is being implemented, and the competition has been divided into two divisions, BEST and FIRST. BEST is for smaller schools without official robotics programs, and FIRST is for schools with more advanced programs and teams.

Both divisions have had a huge impact on various schools, and they have definitely increased students’ interest in STEM and robotics!

We are looking forward to how this program will take shape over the course of the next few years!


National Engineering Week – Visioneering!

February 21-27 was National Engineering Week 2016! To kick off National Engineering Week, The Caruth Institute for Engineering Education in the Bobby Lyle School of Engineering at SMU hosted their 16th annual Visioneering event!

Lyle Visioneering

On February 20th, over 90 middle school teams from all over DFW came to SMU to display their engineering skills!

Lyle Visioneering

After teams arrived, they were welcomed in the auditorium through a welcoming ceremony where they learned about what engineers do, and they were presented with this year’s design challenge! This year’s challenge consisted of the students designing a classroom for the year, 2025. After they were given the challenge and some ideas, they were sent off to various classrooms across SMU to work on the project!

When in the classrooms, students met with their mentors (either a professional engineer, an engineering student from SMU, or a professor from SMU). Mentors introduced themselves, described the field of engineering, and discussed the engineering design process. Students were given time to brainstorm ideas that they had for their classrooms of the future based on things they thought were wrong with the classrooms of today. After brainstorming, students worked with a partner to design a drawing of what they think the classroom should look like. After the partner activity, students worked together as a team to finalize ideas before they moved on to their diorama.

After finalizing their ideas, students created a diorama of their classrooms with card-stock paper, construction paper, markers, and a shoe-box. Students got pretty creative with these dioramas.

Some students wanted courtyards inside, doors that lead to playgrounds, multiple floors (1 for education, 1 for studying), holograms on the walls, whiteboards/smartboards that were connected to each student’s desk, and more!


Students really got creative with their ideas for their classrooms!

After the creation of the classrooms, students were expected to present their creations to judges. Each student was expected to have a role in the presentation to explain each new idea they had for their classrooms.

After presentations/judging, students returned to the auditorium for snacks, an engineering panel, and awards! Six teams were awarded for various aspects of the project, but everyone left with the satisfaction of creating an engineering project!

Students and mentors enjoyed, alike, and students left knowing how to work in a team, to not be afraid to share their ideas, and with more knowledge about what engineers do!

27906D_029 (1).jpg

Visioneering 2016 was a success, and we can’t wait for next year!

What’s going on at Lyle?

These past few weeks have been an exciting time at the Lyle School of Engineering.

There has been a Community Challenge to design and build a Foosball table and a Custom T-Shirt Workshop at the Deason Innovation Gym, and really cool project presentations for a Form and Composition class within Master of Arts in Design and Innovation (MADI) Program!


Community Challenge:

In the Deason Innovation Gym here at SMU, the members of the entire SMU community were offered an opportunity to participate in a community challenge! The goal of this challenge was to design and build a fully functioning Foosball table!

The process started with brainstorming and the design and creation of a prototype:



After a prototype was built, the participants went on to build the final product!

The first Community Challenge has been a success so far, and we can’t wait until the next one!


However, that is not the only cool thing going on at the Deason Innovation Gym (DIG) – the DIG also held a Custom T-Shirt Workshop!


T-Shirt Workshop:

At the Deason Innovation Gym, there is always something going on to stir creativity and innovation – this time it was a Custom T-Shirt Design Workshop!

Students signed up and were invited to the DIG to create their own personalized custom t-shirts!


The workshop started off with brainstorming and learning how to create the design on the computer!

Then, participants went on to the creation of their design by learning to use the vinyl cutter!


The students ended up with cool t-shirts to wear and new-found knowledge!

Apart from the cool events going on at the DIG, there are some other cool things going on throughout the Lyle School of Engineering!


MADI Projects:

As a part of the Master of Arts in Design and Innovation (MADI) program at SMU, students took a Form and Composition class.

The class was a fast paced introduction to 2D graphic design and 3D design.

As part of the final project, students were assigned the task to create a concept for a chair that met a specific human need. After coming up with the idea, students were tasked with creating a large scale 3D model and an advertisement for their chair.

Students started their chair idea with a sketch, went on to a small model, created a larger model, then went on to create their prototypes (along with their advertisements) for a final presentation.

The chair ideas were really cool!


Battle of the Bots Fall 2015

Every semester, SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering offers a First Year Design course for (mostly) first year students.

The course consists of students being assigned to teams from all different disciplines.

Teams are then assigned the task to build a robot to autonomously operate through a given course, and they are expected to have this completed by the end-of-semester competition, Battle of the Bots.


At Battle of the Bots, teams get the chance to show their skills to the SMU community as their robots compete to win the competition.

This year’s Battle took place outside, and the robots were expected to move out of the starting box, find a designated container, measure the conductivity of the contents of that container, climb a platform and take measurements, navigate through barriers, and much more!


During the competition, some teams had to troubleshoot their robots, and some had to re-position them.

By the end of it, students were exhausted. However, the students came together to make cool robots!


Pumpkin Carving Science!

Today the Deason Innovation Gym at SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering hosted their annual Pumpkin’s + Power Tools Event!

pumpkins and power tools

The event consisted of stations to properly carve each pumpkin to perfection.


The first station was the sketching station – because every masterpiece starts with a creative idea and a brainstorming session!


Next came gut removal! This station got really messy – our pumpkin carvers had to cut off the top of the pumpkin and remove the insides of the pumpkin before they were able to carve them! Some participants used power tools to cut off the top of the pumpkin, but some chose to go the traditional route!


Next came the fun stuff – the actual carving of the pumpkins! This is where the participants got the most creative – some chose to use power tools, some chose to carve by hand, and some chose to use the laser cutter!


This event was one of our favorite events of the year as it incorporates the design process (organization and planning), science (the actual anatomy of the pumpkin while cleaning it out), and technology (power tools and the laser cutter)!


Everyone at this event, pumpkin carvers AND observers, had an outstanding time, and the best part was that everyone got to use their creative skills and learn something new!


We hope everyone has a safe and STEM filled Halloween!


The Science Behind Going Back to School

As school starts back up, we have to get into our “school year habits” and routines, but before we blindly go back to our school habits, we should figure out the science behind everything we do when we go back to school!

Waking Up Early:

During the summer, kids don’t always have to wake up at a certain time. This leads to waking up later in the mornings, and sometimes it even results in waking up in the afternoon.

What most people don’t understand, though, is that there is so much science involved in the simple process of waking up!

There are at least 11 neurotransmitters that play a role in going to sleep and waking up. Of those neurotransmitters, the Orexin neurotransmitter, produced in the hypothalamus, is known to be linked to wakefulness.

The Morning Routine:

When you create a new routine or a schedule, there are health processes involved in that. Your brain identifies the routine and gets you in the habit of following the routine every day.

Sooner or later, you will complete the tasks on your schedule without realizing that you’re following your routine.

Your brain just gets used to the tasks and makes you complete them.

The Ride to School/Work:

When you get in the car/bus/train, get on the bike, or even walk and head to work or school, there is SO much science involved in that!

Cars, buses, trains, and bikes are all works of engineers and scientists that designed and planned every aspect of those ways of transportation.

When you walk, that is a completely scientific process! There are muscles and bones and limbs and neurotransmitters all involved!

The After-School Relief

The first days of school can be draining, and a lot of it has to do with mental processes.

Before you go to school, you feel a mix of emotions ranging from happiness to nervousness to angriness (because your summer was too short).

After the first day ends, however, you feel relieved and happy that the day is over.

All of these emotions are controlled by your brain, and they simple scientific processes that dictate how you feel.

Going back to school is a terrifying and exhilarating experience!

Before you get scared or nervous, think about how those emotions are just scientific processes that your brain controls. If you think about it that way, you can control your brain to make you feel excited!

Hopefully everyone’s first days of school went well, and we wish for everyone to have the best school year yet!


Gender Neutral Toys for the Future of Children

Boys are supposed to play with toy cars and construction toys, and girls are supposed to play with dolls and kitchen toys, right?

Wrong! For the future of STEM fields, we need gender neutral toys!

Check out this paper written by Christie Pearson!

The Importance of Gender-Neutral Toys in the Future of STEM

Gender-typed toys are not effective in fully developing children’s academic, artistic, cognitive, musical, and physical skills.  In addition, they perpetuate stereotypes that can limit a child’s scope of possibilities for future education and professional aspirations.  Toys are children’s tools for exploration and discovery.  They are not only a fun part of childhood, but necessary in a child’s development.

Judith Elaine Blackmore, professor of psychology and assistant dean at Indiana University-Purdue University, conducted two studies that evaluated the perception of toys and their effectiveness in child development.  The toys were categorized as strongly feminine, moderately feminine, neutral, moderately masculine, and strongly masculine.  She found that “strongly gender-typed toys appear[ed] to be less supportive of optimal development than neutral or moderately gender-typed toys” (“What the Research Says: Gender-Typed Toys”).

The division instilled during childhood playtime plays out in higher academia and the professional world.  “Despite accounting for half of the college-educated workforce, in 2010” only 13% of engineers in the United States were women (“Science and Engineering Indicators 2014”).  Since the late 1980s, there has been a movement to increase the number of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.  Gender parity initiatives have worked to increase enrollment in higher educational through scholarships and STEM programming in elementary, middle, and high schools.  Many of these efforts have been successful, and at Southern Methodist University’s Lyle School of Engineering there is a 33.3% female enrollment rate as of the Spring 2015 semester.  The Lyle School is also unique for having at least 30% female enrollment rate for the past ten years.  While this percentage is progressive, there is still room for improvement.

The problem is clearly visible in the toy aisle where gendered-typed toys are maintaining the barriers of gender stereotypes.  In 2012, Debbie Sterling created a Kickstarter account to make her prototype of construction toys for girls a reality.  Barely three years later Sterling functions as the founder and CEO of GoldieBlox, one of the most popular toys for girls.  GoldieBlox is helping to blur the lines between gendered-typed toys, creating construction toys for girls, ages 4 to 9, by incorporating verbal skills with spatial skills (Sterling).  Sterling does not seek to replace dolls; on the contrary, she seeks to incorporate engineering and math in young female play.  She is quoted on the GoldieBlox website saying, “There’s nothing wrong with being a princess, we just think girls can build their own castles too.”

The toy aisle should not be divided by assumed gender stereotypes.  Girls and boys are different, but their opportunities don’t have to be.  Playrooms are children’s first classrooms, toys their first textbooks, and their imagination the curriculum.  The current education system requires all male and female students to take core classes: English, math, and science, in primary education.  In order to better prepare young children for success in the classroom and beyond, we should bring our children to a toy aisle that stocks an endless array of opportunities for all.

Works Cited

Blakemore, Judith E. Owen, and Renee E. Centers. “Characteristics of Boys’ and Girls’ Toys.”

Sex Roles (2014): 619-33. ResearchGate. Web. 16 June 2015. <;.

“What the Research Says: Gender-Typed Toys.” National Association for the Education of Young Children | NAEYC. Web. 15 June 2015. < research-says-gender-typed-toys>.

“Science and Engineering Indicators 2014.” National Science Foundation. Web. 16 June 2015.


Sterling, Debbie. “Inspiring the Next Generation of Female Engineers.” Online video clip.

YoutTube. YouTube, 19 Apr. 2013. Web. 16 June 2015.


SMU CSI Camp Session 4 Day 3

Today was the last day of our last session of SMU CSI Camp 2015!

We started off the day with a presentation by a forensic pathologist!

DSC_5617 DSC_5618

Then, we did some forensic anthropology!

DSC_5622 DSC_5625

Then, we did a gait lab!

DSC_5649 DSC_5665

Then, we had a visit from the Denton County SWAT Team! Our campers got to learn what they do, and they got to look at the cool vehicle they drive!

DSC_5687 DSC_5710 DSC_5731

Everyone had a lot of fun and learned a lot during our camp, and we are sad that it had to come to an end. We can’t wait until next year!


SMU CSI Camp Session 4 Day 2

Today was the second day of our last session of SMU CSI Camp 2015.

We started the day off with an exciting presentation by the FBI. Our campers learned a ton about being in the FBI and how cool the job really is!

DSC_5438 DSC_5439 DSC_5450

After learning all about the FBI, our campers went to do a Fingerprint Dusting lab with the SMU PD, and they also got to find out what kind of fingerprints they had with our Fingerprint Sensor Activity!

DSC_5453 DSC_5463 DSC_5504 DSC_5505

After learning about their fingerprints, our campers got to learn about the SMU Police Department and the SMU SWAT Team. They got to learn about what the SWAT Team does, and they got to see some cool equipment!

DSC_5557 DSC_5536

After learning about the SWAT Team and cool equipment, our campers got to extract DNA from strawberries! They got to squish the strawberries and mix the strawberries with other things to get the DNA!

DSC_5563 DSC_5612 DSC_5611

After the DNA Extraction, our campers got to look at their eyes and do an Iris Recognition Activity!

Today was a ton of fun, and the campers learned a lot!

We are sad that our camps for the year are ending, but we are glad that everyone has had such a wonderful time! We definitely cannot wait until tomorrow!