Shorya Awtar, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering
It usually takes a good deal of time for the impact of research and educational efforts to materialize. But for me, it's important to know that what I do -- or at least part of it -- benefits society in some positive way, however small. Working with the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum helps me realize this objective in a direct, immediate and tangible manner. I can extend my educational effort beyond the University and reach out to school children. The Museum is a magical place, not just for children but adults like me -- we can learn so much by looking at their simple science and technology exhibits.
Raising a young daughter constantly reminds me how curious and ingenious young children can be. I enjoy nurturing those hungry, inquiring minds. So I visited the Hands-On Museum and was highly impressed by their ambiance, exhibits and mission -- I saw that it was a natural fit for me. My own research is very hands-on and applied. And to create new technology, one needs to understand the science behind it. I'm absolutely delighted by the mission of the Museum, which is to show the connections between science, technology and real life.
I've done several things as a volunteer at the Museum. My graduate students built two-wheel balancing scooters -- somewhat like the Segway -- from scratch in the class that I teach. We took them to the Museum for their various events. They've been a huge hit with the kids and their parents. We offer them joy rides. They always want to know how this magical thing works.
I've sponsored senior-year capstone design projects in Design and Manufacturing III, a course that's been called "an outstanding major design experience." The projects are based on creating new exhibits for the Museum. The first one was the Inverted Pendulum Balancing exhibit. We plan to do several similar projects in the coming semesters such as inverted pyramid balancing and balancing a ball on a plate.
We choose these kinds of systems because they're fun -- almost magical -- to watch. But from a science-and-technology point of view, they highlight the highly interdisciplinary nature of engineering, today. I also plan to hold workshops and demonstrations on specific topics that might interest the Museum -- for example, how an automobile or aircraft works.