Students present end of the year projects at research colloquium

The tail end of the semester is often a busy time for students, especially with finals right around the corner. Many find themselves scrambling to wrap up projects, frantically cramming every last bit of information into their brain for final exams.

However, the students demonstrating at the St. Cloud State research colloquium are prepared, swift and enthused to present their most recent research: inventions, and innovations – which some participants have been working on since the beginning of the year. Students from a wide variety of departments including biological sciences, social sciences, computer sciences and engineering all gathered in the Atwood Ballroom to present their works.

A list of departments participating in the colloquium

Stephen Janasie, the Experiential Learning and Outreach Director for the College of Science and Engineering said students at the colloquium can present their work in a multitude of ways. He mentioned the ones in the Atwood Ballroom are all poster presentations sponsored by faculty members where either one student or a team of students have worked on a project. Then they make the poster of the research they’ve done, which is presented to students and judges in the Ballroom.

The presentations are divided into two difference categories, competitive and non-competitive. Janasie said the projects in the competition will be heavily evaluated by judges and whoever the winner is at the end of the day receives a prize at the closing ceremony. For those not competing, Janasie said those are students who are just proud to show what they’ve accomplished.

Aside from poster presentations, other students throughout Atwood Memorial Center were doing oral presentations, Janasie also mentioned students who have a “creative works” project, primarily from the college of liberal arts presented as well.

When it comes to how participants decide to invest in research, design or proposals, Janasie explained it’s either part of an upper-level course in their major, primarily with the College of Science and Engineering, but others decide to take up the work entirely on their own.

Jessica Amiot, Applied Behavior Analysis major did her social sciences research on praise for children in preschool classrooms.

“There may be a project that’s a component of a particular course, if the quality of the work reaches a certain level where the faculty says, ‘I think this would be a great idea for you to bring to the student research colloquium,’ I know we have a lot of students in the college of science and engineering that are almost like paid researchers who help out faculty in a lab helping them do research.”

And the work students have done, is not simple. Tyler Hieteanen, Zane Beltz and Connor M, all Computer Engineering majors at SCSU spent their semester working on a small worker-unit designed to convenience warehouse employees transport boxes and load other heavy objects.

From left to right, Tyler, Connor, and Zane all present their year-long project designing a machine that carries packages throughout warehouses

“Say you have a package that you’re loading off of a truck, it can drop off packages anywhere in the warehouse, the package could be dropped off on a side lane and then be moved to a proper area,”  they said.

When designing their machine, the programmers said they wanted it to perform certain tasks so warehouse workers wouldn’t have to worry about efficiency:

“We first had to conceptualize what we wanted to do, for this we wanted it to be able to stay in the middle of the isle for the warehouse, we want to be able to lift an object up and down when we reach an end of an isle and we wanted to communicate with it wirelessly using Bluetooth.”

They mentioned their goal for the end of the semester is to have three of their machines up and running and hopefully, one day, build a similar prototype to use at a company or local warehouse, but their first design would be too small to carry anything.

“This one we have right now is not the one we would sell to a company, it’s not as capable as we would like it to be,” they said.

They also explained the University owns the rights to what they built and would stay in the department and would cost much more for the department to make a bigger model.

Hieteanen said it’s important that he learns to build things like this because of the changes in factory work due to an increase in automation.

“We know that automation is a big thing in the future, everything is becoming automated, they’re using robotics a lot and with being computer engineers we are a blend between an engineer doing the programming and a computer scientist understanding the software that’s needed to make things work.”

When it comes to the overall importance of presenting projects and research, Stephen Janasie said companies like to see that students can work together on complex projects with teams providing students with both hard skills and soft skills.

For those who are interested in presenting their findings or what to conduct research and present at next year’s colloquium, contact the professors in your department and start planning.

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