The University of West Florida’s faculty, staff, and students share fully interactive displays representing various fields in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. The goal of our Science Showcase is to stimulate student interest in their courses by showing them applications of math and science skills, with a long term goal of bringing more of them into a career in the STEM fields.

What is it?

The Showcase, formed in 2006, typically begins with one of our female faculty members discussing women in science and the need for girls’ unique problemsolving skills in STEM disciplines. The students are divided into groups assigned to “stations” or displays and have 15 – 20 minutes at a station before rotating to the next station. The Science Showcase is coordinated by Sherry Newberry, Outreach Coordinator for the School of Science and Engineering. The displays themselves vary depending on faculty availability.

The Science Showcase has visited a variety of schools, to include Antioch Elementary, Walton, Freeport, Jinks, CW Ruckel, Addie R. Lewis, Pryor, and Destin middle schools, Seaside Neighborhood and Liza Jackson Preparatory schools, Fairhope and Daphne high schools. The events have been very successful, generating overwhelming positive reviews from the students and school administrators alike. We hope to visit even more schools this year so we can continue to spread the word that the STEM disciplines can be fun, interesting, and exciting…

ECE Participating Stations

Dr. Thomas Gilbar, ECE, discusses basic ideas of electricity, such as parts of an atom, charge, attraction/repulsion of atomic particles, electrical safety, current, and voltage. He demonstrates changing forms of energy through the use of a hand cranked Van De Graff generator. The generator gives the students a hands-on activity – they are allowed to crank the generator and use the wand to produce sparks, raise the hair on their heads, and yes, mildly shock each other.

Dr. Andreas Fuchs, ECE, displays two “BoeBots” designed and built by students in the UWF robotics class. The first robot follows a black path on a large multi-colored board, demonstrating how it can track the path. It also has a color sensor measuring the wave-length of the reflected light from the colored background illuminating an LED with corresponding color. He makes the point that although a Stamp processor directly controls the robots, it is ultimately the programmer (student) who develops the logic for the robots. A second robot writes a pre-programmed message on a board while the students watch a message form. Dr. Fuchs explains that a mechanical mouse is used to track the robot’s position as another component raises and lowers a marker to provide the ink strokes. Again, the role of the program (and student programmer) is emphasized.

Dr. Bassam Shaer, ECE, discusses how sound waves are generated where pulses with different frequencies produce different sounds. He uses basic electronic components to produce eleven different pulses with different frequencies. He wires those components to switches and speakers to build an electric piano. Students are able to interact with eleven switches to produce different tones, sounds, and notes. He also uses the pulse generator as a clock to control a random binary counter to a function as an electric dice game with the help of LEDs. When students enable the clock by pushing a switch, the binary counter counts up at the speed of the clock and output is displayed as an electric dice.

UWF Unmanned Systems Lab: demonstrates a human-sized autonomous robot which is developed with intention to take prospective students on tours in the Science and Engineering Building. Students learn what Electrical and Computer Engineering is about, and various functionality building blocks associated with robots. 

IEEE Student Organization: effects of resonant vibration using a function generator and metal plates, conducted by Ernst Chladni in the 18th century, will be replicated. Geometric shapes change as frequency is increased is demonstrated, and why the elderly can lose hearing is discussed. Students will experience levels of frequency with noise limiting headphones.  

Other STEM Major Participating Stations

Marine Science: water chemistry assessments and the importance of water chemistry to marine life is shown and discussed with students able to do simple water chemistry tests to determine salinity, temperature, and pH to discuss the differences they find. They also examine differences in the fauna from each environment from a collection of common, near-shore marine species.

Geographic Information Science (GIS) / Geography: learn how GIS allow scientists to view and analyze spatial information in a way they could never do with paper maps, tables, or charts. Spatial data is explained  how it can be layered on top of other information with similar spatial attributes (such as Google Earth or a GPS) and can be manipulated to answer questions ranging from “Where can I take a vacation that offers ocean kayaking, marlin fishing, and excellent hotel ratings?“ to “If an oil spill occurs in the Gulf of Mexico, which land and animal species are most susceptible to the oil, and when can we expect to see the oil on our beaches? “

Computer Science: what is computer science, what does a computer scientist do, how computer programs impact our lives is discussed to include games and gamming, social media (e.g., twitter, facebook) and PDA applications (e.g., iPod, iPhone).   A dancing robot may be used to demonstrate how computer programming is the “brains” behind any robotic operation.

GUESTS: Bridget Lyons, NWFSC, Biology, shares a simple chemical experiment producing an entirely new substance. Students learn about polymers, and how something can behave as a liquid and a solid at the same time; Dr. Bill Cook and students, Choctaw HS, Engineering, explain how three dimensional solid modeling is used to describe objects they design and build. AutoCAD Inventor illustrates how students use the program to describe projects. Students are given the opportunity to create their own solid models of simple objects on lap top computers; Jeff Elliott, ECSC; and Ray Cotton, Jr. Museum Bay Cty also participated.