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New student organization sets out to spread STEM word

New student organization sets out to spread STEM word

Authors: Anna Hartenbach and Colleen Carow

There’s a new group in town, and they plan to awaken interest in STEM.

Formed last year, the Ohio University Renaissance Engineers (RenEs) – a new Russ College student organization – operate under four pillars: educational outreach, technical projects, engineering professionalism, and infrastructure.

“Our mission is to create for good in our community by solving problems with the application of our engineering knowledge and skills,” said Athan Vouzianas, Russ College engineering fundamentals lecturer and founder of the organization.

They’re doing just that, having already held workshops for local kids at area libraries, teaching engineering concepts through projects such as building flashlights or making silly putty.

Next up is Engineering and Technology Day, on Sat., Feb. 24, when they’ll welcome K-12 schoolchildren to campus for various hands-on activities.

They’ve also programmed a NAO Robot – a pintsized humanoid robot – to interact with children who have special needs, and they’ve built a bridge for a community partner. And they’re working to build partnerships with the industry and create internship opportunities.

“A lot of times, when you ask kids what they want to be, they say an astronaut, an officer or a pilot, which is fine,” Vouzianas said. “We want them to start seeing engineering as a potential career, and even if they don’t decide to become engineers, we want them to be exposed to the things engineers do because it will benefit them in life.”

Sophomore mechanical engineering student Tyler Martin, education outreach director for the group, said he wasn’t exposed to STEM until his senior year of high school when a teacher recruited him for a project involving a robot arm.

“Someone dropped out of the group, so my physics teacher pulled me in. Being involved with the robot arm project made me love engineering,” Martin said. “My goal is to expose students to STEM so they can be more motivated about science and math in school, in preparation for college.”

The group welcomes students of any major to help spread the word. Secretary Abby Corpuz, a sophomore double majoring in marketing and management and strategic leadership, joined when she was a freshman undecided engineering major.

“As a non-STEM major, I get to continue learning about engineering through the projects we do. I enjoy still being connected to the Russ College,” Corpuz said.

According to Vouzianas, such a mix of students is what makes the group.

“When we were starting out, we thought, we don’t want be the technocrats who create technology solutions -- we want to be people who solve problems for our world,” he said. “That’s when I knew we were Renaissance folks.”

The Renaissance Engineers meets the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Academic & Research Center 312.