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UTSA engineering students build interactive exhibits to engage children at The DoSeum

UTSA engineering students build interactive exhibits to engage children at The DoSeum

Nov. 20, 2019 — Two teams of UTSA engineering students are building new interactive exhibits that will engage local children in the mysteries of sight and sound at The DoSeum. Their projects will be on display at the university this month along with the innovative work of 91 other student teams at the UTSA College of Engineering Technology Symposium.

The showcase, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019 in the H-E-B Student Union Ballroom on the UTSA Main Campus.

The DoSeum projects are among five EPICS (Engineering Projects in Community Service) that will be on display at the Tech Symposium, one of Texas’ largest university engineering accelerators, a showcase of innovative projects developed by UTSA students in civil, computer, electrical and mechanical engineering. EPICS is a service-learning design program, where teams of students partner with local and global community organization to address human, community and environmental needs.

“I have found that EPICS replicates the real world while adding learning moments. When we consider future impacts on the community and our guests, I foresee these two UTSA EPICS exhibits as fundamental in showcasing the education pipeline for local kids who visit The DoSeum,” said Orlando Graves Bolaños, Arts Education Manager at The DoSeum. “Imagine a fifth grader interacting with a lesson on light and sound phenomena and then becoming aware that a local college student conceived, designed and fabricated that exhibit. That’s a powerful and attainable message that spotlights near future next steps for a future in STEM.”

Beyond the Eyes and Tuned In are not only senior design projects but are also the inaugural projects of the UTSA EPICS program, which began in spring 2019 with a collaboration with The DoSeum. The exhibits will be housed in The DoSeum’s Semmes Foundation Spy Academy. The DoSeum is a STEM-focused children’s museum that introduces children of all ages to STEM-related activities through play and discovery.

Beyond the Eyes uses infrared LEDs to place a programmable message hidden within the Spy Academy for child “spies” to discover. The children will use a camera that can see the infrared that is invisible to the naked eye to take part in the adventure.

Tuned In involves challenges children to decode a sample wave form by varying the frequency, amplitude and phase of an oscilloscope-type waveform tracing. Students adjust the oscilloscope tracing to match the test waveform to the target.

Both projects will be deployed at The DoSeum over the next several months, initiating the cultivation of a long-term relationship that includes design, building and installation as well as evaluation that will allow UTSA to refine and support the projects over time. The UTSA EPICS program plans to continue working with The DoSeum after completion. More DoSeum exhibit designs will begin production at UTSA in the spring of 2020.

Three additional EPICS projects are currently under development in Senior Design I and will also be on display at the Tech Symposium. Two UTSA EPICS teams are currently working with the Salvation Army to develop an inventory and volunteer tracking system and a third is working with San Antonio Sports to create an app that will provide a paperless way for parents to enroll their children into the San Antonio Sports i-Play! afterschool program, as well as other tracking systems.

EPICS is a student-led, faculty-advised service learning effort that enhances the students’ professional preparation and strengthens their multidisciplinary design skills. Each student team has a project manager and design lead. The EPICS experience runs over the course of the entire four years of a student’s undergraduate experience, allowing for project timelines to be realistic and continuing, involving the community in positive ways and providing opportunities for mentoring and leadership experiences.

“My overall experience with EPICS has been tremendously rewarding,” says Helena Oxendine, a post-baccalaureate studying electrical engineering. “This program continues to teach me valuable skills in business and professional communication, project planning and management, documentation and collaboration, customer relations, and data collection. I’ve been given the opportunity to lead and mentor a group of underclassmen and be a part of something bigger with a greater impact than a traditional senior design project. The striking aspects of EPICS is the ability to provide positive impacts throughout the San Antonio community through engineering.”

The EPICS program originally began at Purdue University in the fall of 1995 as a multidisciplinary, team-based service learning experience. This unique program allows teams of undergraduate students to design, build and deploy real systems to solve engineering-based challenges for local community service and education organizations.

The program bridges the gap between community service organizations who need individuals with strong technical backgrounds and students who need solid expertise in their disciplines to succeed in the future. Through EPICS, undergraduate students work with people of many different backgrounds to identify and achieve shared goals. This experiential learning opportunity helps broaden the skillsets of UTSA students.

"EPICS provides a wonderful opportunity for students to experience the design process throughout their entire academic progression from their freshman year until they graduate, work on engineering solutions that will be put into practice, and experience the entire design process, all while experiencing a real, observable impact on our local community,” said August Allo, a Senior Lecturer in the UTSA Department Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Julie Paulson

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