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Research times 150

Undergraduate Research Conference demonstrates wide range of student exploration and study.

By Cory Phare

May 1, 2017

Research illustrationStudents, faculty and staff packed the atrium and adjoining spaces of North Classroom Friday April 21 for the sixth annual Undergraduate Research Conference. Part of the Undergraduate Research Program, the daylong event consisted of 156 oral and poster presentations of student-conducted work, running an interdisciplinary gamut from humanities to professional studies and all manner of sciences.

“The quality of research increases each year,” said Lori McKinney, Ph.D., service learning specialist with the Applied Learning Center, the department responsible for coordinating the event. “That’s a testament to our students – when they see people doing great work, it raises the bar.”

For mechanical engineering and technology students Edgar Flores and Erick Gomez – just two of the students conducting and presenting research – the URC was an opportunity to demonstrate applied real-world innovations in additive manufacturing (a technique that builds an object by adding ultrathin layers of material one by one). Their presentation, “Strength, stiffness and linear roughness of as-printed ASTM E8 test specimen from three orientations to evaluate the efficacy of additive manufacturing techniques,” showed how steel and titanium can be safely used to quickly create machine parts like wind blades.

Flores described the process as being essentially like an Amazon service, where materials can be fabricated on-demand. The resulting efficiency can save the time and money it would otherwise take to manufacture, for example, aerospace components, or a truly customized medical device for an individual patient, or any number of products in a range of industries.

This safety-focused approach to 3-D printing has not gone unnoticed. In addition to presenting at the URC, Flores and Gomez also recently showcased their work at the annual National Council for Undergraduate Research in Memphis, Tennessee.

“It’s been really exciting to be part of all of it,” said Flores. “A lot of students [at other schools] don’t have the same kind of access that we do; we’re really privileged to be here.” For both presenters, access to hands-on application plus knowledgeable faculty resulted in quality research.

Collective excellence proved to be a cross-institution endeavor, as members of MetroLeads helped moderate oral presentation blocks throughout the day.

One of the core takeaways was supporting dynamic student researchers, according to Rob Ingle, MetroLeads participant and academic advising and retention coordinator for the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

“Part of our duties is to hold a space for students to step out of their comfort zones and do this work,” he said. “The things they’re learning and their resiliency is amazing.”

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