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.

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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!

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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!

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Pumpkin Carving Science!

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

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

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

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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!

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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!

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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)!

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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!

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We hope everyone has a safe and STEM filled Halloween!

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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!

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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. <http://www.researchgate.net/publication/48516050_Characteristics_of_Boys%27_and_Girls%27_Toys&gt;.

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

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

< http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind14/index.cfm/chapter-3/c3h.htm&gt;.

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

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

<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEeTLopLkEo&gt;.

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!

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Then, we did some forensic anthropology!

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Then, we did a gait lab!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

SMU CSI Camp Session 4 Day 1

Today begins the first day of our last SMU CSI Camp for this summer.

We have a great group of campers who are ready to learn and solve crimes!

We started our day with a presentation by detective Sean Kearney. He taught us everything we needed to know before going into our own crime scene!

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After learning from him, we were ready as we stumbled upon our own crime scene! There was a kidnapping in the Caruth Institute, and we needed the best group of young minds to figure out who committed it! Luckily, we had them! Our campers joined together to examine the crime scene as they collected evidence, took pictures, and sketched the scene.

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After examining the crime scene, the campers took a break from it and got to meet a K9 officer and his partner! He explained his job and how him and his dog solve crimes! After hearing about the officer’s job, we went outside to see a demonstration of how the officer and his partner work together!

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After the K9 presentation, the campers returned to the classrooms to see if they could solve the crime we discovered at the crime scene. We took a sample from the soil we found at the crime scene and observed it under the microscope to see if we could find any clues.

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After looking at the soil, we did a paper chromatography lab to see what marker was used on the note we found at the crime scene! Every company uses multiple colors to make up the black marker, so we were able to see different colors in different markers, and compare them to the note to figure out which marker was used!

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The campers learned a lot today! We can’t wait to continue our camp tomorrow!

SMU CSI Camp Session 3 Day 3

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

As we were all sad that the great time at camp was coming to an end, we were also all excited to see what great science adventures the day had in store for us!

We started our day with a visit from Dr. Amy Gruszecki, a forensic pathologist. She explained what a day in her job is actually like. To our surprise, her job is nothing like what they depict on TV!

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She showed us pictures of things she examines as well! The picture below shows an artery in the heart – the one on the left is good, and the one on the right is blocked!

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As the day went on, we did forensic anthropology and a gait lab!

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After this, the campers got to do a facial recognition lab! With this activity, our campers got to apply knowledge they learned throughout the week, and they got to learn even more!

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We also had a visit from Jose Gloria and Ruth Spencer of the Denton County SWAT Team! The girls got to see all their equipment, and they even got to play with some of it!

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Session 3 has officially come to an end, and we are so glad that it was so much fun for the campers! Not only did we all have a ton of fun, everyone learned a lot and got to apply their new knowledge throughout the week!

After such a great session 3, we absolutely cannot wait to start session 4 next week!

SMU CSI Camp Session 3 Day 2

This morning was the second day of our third session of SMU CSI Camp!

The day was filled with a ton of exciting science activities, and everyone had a lot of fun!

The morning began with a presentation by a real FBI Agent! The campers learned everything they wanted to know about the FBI!

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After the FBI presentation, the girls worked with the SMU Police Department and learned all about fingerprint dusting.

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After fingerprint dusting, the campers wondered what kind of fingerprints they had, so we decided to complete a fingerprint sensor activity. Through the fingerprint sensor, the girls learned what kind of fingerprints they have, and they also learned what minutiaes are!

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After this, Detective Perez came in from the SMU PD and gave a presentation about women in law enforcement and more! Detective Perez showed the campers what she does to get in full uniform; she discussed what she carries on her belt, and the campers learned what all is carried in a police vehicle.

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After learning about law enforcement, the campers were curious to see what our next exciting activity was. The girls got to extract DNA from strawberries!

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To wrap up the day, we did an iris recognition activity!

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Today was so much fun! We can’t wait until tomorrow!

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SMU CSI Camp Session 3 Day 1

Yesterday was the first day of our second girls camp!

We have 10 eager 6th and 7th grade ladies this week from the DFW, Houston and Oklahoma area! We began our day with a presentation by a detective from the Dallas Police Department about being a Crime Scene Technician. He told us everything we needed to know before we entered our crime scene.

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With the information we learned from our Detective, we started surveying our crime scene. We sketched out the scene, took lots of pictures and collected the evidence.

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After lunch, we got to meet K9 Officer Shane Menz and his partner from the Lewisville Police Department. He explained his job and how he and his partner work together to solve crimes. He showed us how he detects narcotics and how he is focused on his job at hand. As a reward he gets to play with his favorite toy, his squeaky ball.

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We then went back to the evidence we found at our crime scene. The note that was left behind was hand written with a black marker, so we did a lab called Paper Chromatography to find out what kind of black marker was used to write the note. Did you know that black markers are actually made up of different colors and each company uses different colors in their black markers?

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We then took the soil sample that we collected at our crime scene and analyzed it under stereoscopes. We compared it to other samples taken around the location of our crime to find out where it came from.

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It’s was an exciting first day! The girls can’t wait to continue their investigation today!