Research Communications

Go behind the scenes of the Student Research and Creative Activity Expo 

By Jessica Salerno
April 2, 2013

It's not every day that you can see demonstrations of an 8-foot-high elephant puppet and a self-propelled snow plow in the same place. But that's what you'll find at the Ohio University Student Research and Creative Activity Expo, and this year promises to be just as informative and fun. The event will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 11 at the Convocation Center.

More than a decade ago, the Expo began as a way for students with university funding for their research and creative work to demonstrate the results of their efforts. Roxanne Malé-Brune, the director of grant development and projects for the Graduate College and Vice President for Research and Creative Activity unit, says the event also turned out to be a great way for students to discuss their research with others and learn critical presentation skills.

"Eventually we realized that it would just be a lot of fun to invite anybody and everybody in all different disciplines, no matter their funding source or whether they were an undergraduate or graduate," she says.

Anna Gray, left, accepts a blue ribbon from Pam Benoit.  
Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit (right) delivers a first-place prize to student Anna Gray at the 2012 event. (File photo: University Communications and Marketing).

(VIDEO: Take a look back at 2012's event here.)

And once numerous departments on campus made it part of their curriculum to present at the Expo, the event grew from a humble 45 people in its first year to approximately 675 presenters slated to appear at the Convocation Center in 2013.

The event draws repeat presenters, such as Damilola Daramola, a former graduate student in chemical engineering who presented for five years. He's now a postdoctoral fellow who is participating for the second year as a judge. As a presenter, getting the chance to practice his "elevator speech" in front of the judges was an important experience.  

"Especially in the science field, it's important that you can talk about what you're working on and why it's relevant. I think the value that you gain from it is significant," he says.

Michael Kushnick, an associate professor of applied health sciences, agrees with Daramola on the importance of the presentation, which is a good addition to students' resumes.

"It provides initial training and proving grounds so students have the opportunity to take their work to a regional or national organization," he says. "They become more confident and clear in their presentations."

He's served as a judge over the past 10 years, and says that the best part of the experience for him is seeing how excited the presenters are to discuss their hard work.

 judges_web
About 140 faculty, staff and postdoctoral fellows will serve as judges of the presentations this year. (File photo: University Communications and Marketing)

There's a lot of work that goes into the Expo—and not just for the presenters. Liz Pahl, Student Expo coordinator, usually starts preparing for next year's expo the day after the event has ended.

With 675 participants and 140 judges, Pahl compares organizing the event to solving a puzzle, but says the employees of the Convo "help us out a lot. They're such great hosts."

Around 2,000 visitors are expected over the course of the day. Malé-Brune says organizers normally judge the attendance by how much pizza is eaten. Avalanche, Domino's and Baker Center supply the food, and Pepsi will donate soda and water. University Libraries sponsors the t-shirts and most of the signage for the event.

And it's not just community members and Ohio University students who will get to enjoy the array of research projects. That attendance number also includes between 400 and 800 high school and middle school students. 
 Mike Seiser dumps beans into his bean shelling machine
The Expo includes many demonstrations of student work, including this bean-shelling machine at the 2012 event. (File photo: University Communications and Marketing)

Troy Weaver, a chemistry teacher at Vinton County High School, brought about 40 high school students last year and will return this year. He appreciates Ohio University's invitation to his district, he says, as the event is a good way of highlighting the intellectual life of and research opportunities available to college students.


"It's great to see different ways students present research," he says. "It validates some of the skill sets that we're trying to teach in the high school, such as how communicating information is important," he says.

This year he'll group his students based on their interests, to help them navigate the various disciplines on display at the event. (A map of the Convo is available at the event and also online.)

The Expo will host multiple contests for high school, middle school and Ohio University students, who can use Facebook and Twitter to post pictures of the event to win prizes.

For more info about the event, including a list of this year's presenters, visit www.ohio.edu/studentexpo.