Welcome to the Kansas NSF EPSCoR (KNE) news and announcements blog. Stay up-to-date with all the happenings, discoveries, events and funding opportunities associated with KNE. Enter your email in the "Follow by email" box below an to the right to stay notified of new posts. Feel free to leave comments.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Emporia State University collaborates with Flint Hills Technical School to "Energize" Students in the rural Flint Hills region of Kansas

Students creating battery circuits
      “Energizing Students” was another successful program funded by a Kansas NSF EPSCoR Education and Diversity grant awarded to Dr. Betsy Yanik, the Roe R. Cross Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at Emporia State University (ESU). Over last spring and this summer, she partnered with faculty at Flint Hills Technical College (FHTC) to create a series of fun, interactive STEM activities specifically targeting the Hispanic youth in the Flint Hills region of Kansas. The main components of the program were two “STEM Day” Saturday workshops, April 4th at ESU and May 8th at FHTC, and a five day summer day camp, June 13-18th, offered jointly by ESU and FHTC.
Students taking measurements
      The Saturday celebrations of "STEM Day" consisted of energy science themed interactive exercises. At the ESU "STEM Day" event on April 4, 2015, eighteen middle school students participated in four hands-on sessions: Induction and the Physics of Motors, Energize your Problem Solving, What is Energy? and Mathematical Modeling.  On the May 8, 2015 "STEM Day" at FHTC, over 300 eighth grade students rotated through 10 learning stations sponsored by the STEM related programs and courses offered at the Technical College.   During the summer camp held at locations on both campuses, sixteen middle school students participated in seminars featuring heat transfer projects, fluid flow activities, electromagnetic induction, small windmill generator construction, analysis of data using a graphing calculator and solar energy ventures. Participants were also invited to tour the WESTAR natural gas plant and the Wolf Creek Nuclear Corporation.
Students in an instructional session and visiting WESTAR Natural Gas.
      The objectives of the program as a whole were to increase Hispanic students’ interest in science and mathematics; to foster awareness of career opportunities in mathematics and science-related fields; and provide Hispanic students with an opportunity to meet and form personal contacts with professionals working in mathematics and science-related careers.  The expected learning outcomes that students to see the value of looking at situations using quantitative skills and scientific inquiry was achieved. All three programs combined to reach 354 middle school students in the Flint Hills area of Kansas of which approximately 45% of the participants were classified as underrepresented minorities.
      Although the program created a great collaborative effort for both the Flint Hills Technical College and Emporia State University, future funding will determine whether or not the program can continue.  As for now, there are plans to possibly incorporate some of the Get Into Energy activities into the already established ESU summer STEM camp for Hispanic students which has enough other funding to continue.

Kansas NSF EPSCoR Education and Diversity Grants focus on encouraging the next generation of Kansas student to consider STEM careers in the areas of climate or energy research or atomic, molecular and optical science and are designed to enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in Kansas. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

NSF Awards a Kansas And South Carolina Research Collaboration Four Million Dollars

Credit: University of Kansas Center for Research Inc.
     An interstate research partnership between Kansas and South Carolina has received a four million dollar NSF EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement RII Track-2 Award. The research project, titled Catalysis for Renewables: Applications, Fundamentals and Technologies (CRAFT), was one of the eight interstate grants that NSF funded this fall.
     The project's interdisciplinary focus is to develop novel catalysts by combining materials synthesis with structure property relationships. Researchers will explore the fundamental catalytic mechanisms that impact the controlled reconstruction of biomass feedstocks to make renewable chemicals, fuels, plastics and other targeted products.  Specifically, they will address the challenge, "How do you reconstruct naturally occurring liginin, [a complex organic polymer found in plants], to make petrochemical-equivalent chemicals instead of burning it?”
     Bala Subramaniam, the director of the University of Kansas Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis (CEBC) and the Dan F. Servey Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemical & Petroleum Engineering is the lead researcher from Kansas, and John Regalbuto, a professor in the University of South Carolina's Department of Chemical Engineering, is the lead research from South Carolina.
     In addition to the cutting edge science, the grant provides unique educational and collaborative initiatives such as a mentoring program for young, early career professors; the development of a student engaging curriculum at both universities; and, the establishment of across-disciplines and industry partnerships.

To read more about this NSF EPSCoR Award go to:  New NSF grant gives early-career faculty competitive edge 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

"Fun in the Sun" with KU and Project CREATE

Project CREATE facilitator Kathy Bowen and Professor Kevin Leonard address the campers
          The Kansas NSF EPSCoR Education and Diversity Grants are designed to enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in Kansas by supporting activities that will prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of climate or energy research or atomic, molecular and optical science. Last August, Kevin Leonard, assistant professor in chemical and petroleum engineering, was awarded one of five Kansas NSF EPSCoR Education, Outreach and Diversity grants to develop a 3D printer-based solar energy camp for children.  The program titled  Fun in the Sun: Using Solar Fuel Research to Educate, Challenge and Inspire Future Scientists! involves a partnership with Project CREATE, a local non-profit community group.  Project CREATE focuses on "Cultivating Responsible, Enriched, Artistic, Tech-Savvy Enthusiasts," in STEM camps for gifted students in grades 4 - 7. The camp was held June 15 -19 and hosted 43 elementary and middle school students.
        Leonard and his colleague Claudia Bode, Education Director for the Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis at KU, worked with Project CREATE educators to develop activities for the camp.  Their main goals were to inspire students, in particular girls, to see themselves as scientists and engineers; to encourage student exploration of the potential uses of 3D scanners and printers; and 3) to expose the students to STEM related careers. 
The 3D printed add-ons and solar car
       All hands-on activities were energy-themed and addressed the conversion of solar energy to chemical energy through the use of custom-built devices, robotics and 3D technologies. The first task for the students was to build solar cars from preprinted 3D pieces and commercial kits. Then, they designed and 3D printed their own add-on items using an online modeling program. Once the cars were complete, the students tested the variations of engineering designs for efficiency.
        A unique feature of the camp was a new 3D printed miniature dynamometer apparatus that was created with the help of Ed Atchison, engineering technician at CBEC.  The children used the “mini dyno” to measure the speed, temperature, voltage and current of their creations, and then used the results to brainstorm ideas for modifying the cars to improve performance.
        Students reported that they enjoyed building the solar cars, visiting labs, using the modeling program and going on field trips. One participant stated “I liked the freedom you have (in free time); They (leaders) embraced our ideas and we got to do a lot of cool things….” The 3D printing was also a major program highlight expressed by all of the students. Overall, the camp was deemed a fun and educational success and the organizers hope to offer it again next summer.