Winter Research Scholars Kick off 2023 in the Skyline Fab Lab

In 2023, the STEM division hosted 25 students as part of the Winter Research Scholars Internship program. The two-week program, held from Tuesday, January 3, 2023, to Friday, January 13, 2023, in Skyline College’s Fab Lab, provides an introduction to scientific research as well as topics and skills to help students gain further research and industry internships in STEM. These exceptional students from computer science, biology, engineering, and chemistry majors gathered to learn about STEM research and participate in a variety of workshops.

Lauren Ashley Gan, a former Skyline mechanical engineering student and 2022 Winter Scholars graduate who transferred to San Francisco State University, was recruited to help with the program. She was of huge help and support to the students with their assignments and projects.

Brittney Sneed and the Career Readiness and Job Placement Program team provided valuable instruction on how to build a resume as well as feedback on the students’ resumes and cover letters for upcoming internship applications. Students had the opportunity to participate in mock group and individual interviews during the second week of the program and received valuable feedback on how to structure their answers, what to focus on, and general interviewer expectations.

Last year, COVID challenged the program; this year, it was the weather. The program was moved online using Zoom lectures as well as interactive online activities during the two days that the bomb cyclone passed over the Bay. The students spent the first week in the Fab Lab in BLDG 7 with Professors Marco Wehrfritz and Susanne Schubert, learning about rapid prototyping using 3-D modeling and printing techniques, laser cutting, soldering, working with sensors and metrology, and programming with the Arduino microcontroller. In week two, the group was divided into six working groups, each of which worked on an engineering project. The projects were self-proposed by the participating students. This year, we had a huge bandwidth of creative and sophisticated designs, all of which were Arduino-based and incorporated the Fab Lab’s programming, design, and manufacturing techniques. A room occupancy counter that tracks and transmits the number of people in a room, a camera stabilizer, a sourdough monitoring system, an atmosphere analyzer, an RFID tag controlled doggy door, and an autonomous garbage collecting boat to clean pools were among the projects.

On one day, students took a virtual lab tour of San Francisco State University’s (SFSU) School of Engineering in the morning, learning about faculty research areas and the S-SMART summer internship program, which includes projects in computational fluid dynamics, intelligent systems in structural engineering, neural machine interfaces, and assistive rehabilitative robotics.

On the last day of the program, all of the groups presented their work in the STEM center. Each group gave a presentation and demonstrated their prototypes to the group and attending faculty guests. They were able to put skills learned and honed during the presentation skills workshop to use, as well as reflect on their personal and academic growth during this internship, and there was a very lively and active discussion about each project.

The students grew tremendously during the time they were working together, both personally and academically. The groups were frequently mixed, so that by the end of the program, everyone had a chance to work with and meet everyone else in the program. Over time, the students learned to work as a team and created a supportive and collaborative environment, which led to them helping each other even outside of their own project groups. Some students were so inspired by their success and learning outcomes that they considered changing their major to engineering or purchasing their own Arduino to program on their own time.

The STEM Pathways project, a collaborative grant project funded by the US Department of Education’s Developing Hispanic Serving Institutions (DHSI) program, provides support for the Winter Research Scholars program (award No. P031S180169). Nicholas Langhoff, Marco Wehrfritz, and Dr. Susanne Schubert, the coordinators, would like to thank Thanh Nguyen, Bryan Swartout, Nadia Tariq, Rita Gulli, and Dr. Jing Folsom for their tremendous behind-the-scenes support. The organizers would also like to thank their colleagues at SFSU, Dr. Wenshen Pong, Dr. Quintero, Dr. Ghose, Dr. Chen, Dr. Wong, Dr. Wang, Dr. Zhang, Dr. Qin, and Dr. Khalkhal, for sharing their research with us and for the school’s long-standing collaboration with Skyline College.

Article by Marco Wehrfritz and Dr. Susanne Schubert

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