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Engineering society hosts conference, conducts workshops for children



The New York Mu chapter of Tau Beta Pi, a National Engineering Honors Society, has had a busy winter, meeting with peer chapters and conducting a new volunteer initiative.

Earlier this month, the chapter hosted the society’s District 2 Conference on campus. Participants included 83 students from 21 New York and New Jersey chapters, as well as 15 alumni and numerous officials, including Association Executive Director Curt Gomulinski.

Kyra Burnett ’13 organized the weekend event, which included leadership training and a chapter operations workshop. The Union chapter received help from the New York Gamma chapter at RPI. 

“This was a wonderful opportunity for our student leaders to meet with district and national representatives, learn about new initiatives and get reinvigorated,” said Jennifer Currey, assistant professor of bioengineering and Mu chapter advisor.

Last week, the chapter kicked off a volunteer initiative at the Round Lake Library in nearby Saratoga County, teaching basic electrical engineering and mechanical engineering concepts to 12- to 15-year olds. 

Tau Beta Pi chapter president Nathan Haines ’13 and classmates Ryan Harris and Betsy Schwartz led the workshop, bringing in Play Doh, batteries and LEDs to teach about electrical engineering.

“They were in small groups where they could experiment with "squishy circuits,” Haines said. “We had them figure out how to turn the LEDs on, and then taught them about parallel and series circuits.”
As an intro to mechanical engineering, the Union students came equipped with cardboard, straws, tape and balloons for the challenge of building a balloon vehicle. 

“Our students are helping to teach the community more about engineering and get children excited about the possibility of pursuing math and science. This is all in connection with the rapid expansion of the Global Foundries plant in Malta,” Currey said, referencing the fast-growing semi-conductor company, which manufactures integrated circuits in high volume.

“Seeing these school kids having fun, working together and solving problems was exciting,” Haines said. “As an Honor Society, we feel it is important to give back to the community. Just as each of us was inspired by the sciences at an early age, we are hoping to inspire someone else. It is also important to our future profession to have young, eager minds coming up with ideas because they are going to be the ones who give new energy to our field.”

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, an engineer by profession, was on hand to give his support to the program, engineering and the sciences in early education.

The Tau Beta Pi Association is the nation’s oldest engineering society and the second oldest collegiate honor society. It recognizes engineering students who have shown a history of academic achievement and a commitment to personal and professional integrity.