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College of Engineering’s Vital Outreach to Brainerd Students

Engineering career showcase event.

College of Engineering’s Vital Outreach to Brainerd Students

Chattanooga, TN — In a significant move to demystify the realm of engineering and technology, the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) partnered with Brainerd High School chemistry students and UL Research Institutes this semester. The collaboration aimed to facilitate a deepened understanding of “thermal runaway” resulting in a shift in the prospective future of the participating students.

Exploring Real-World Applications

As part of this initiative, Brainerd chemistry students got an insider’s view of how technology and engineering work in real-world scenarios. Throughout the spring semester, the high school students worked closely with UTC faculty members and students on safety experiments, leveraging cutting-edge research insights from the UL Research Institutes. Their primary focus was on lithium-ion batteries, underscoring the risks associated with overheating and potential for thermal runaway.

Bridging Theory and Practice

Thermal runaway in batteries typically leads to rapid heat generation, typically resulting in swelling, venting, smoke, fire, and even explosions. With hands-on investigations and testing, the Brainerd students ingeniously engineered solutions to prevent these potential hazards. They embraced a challenging yet rewarding task — designing an enclosure to protect lithium-ion batteries from overheating, thus ensuring thermal runaway does not occur.

Fostering Career Aspirations and Goals In Engineering

Beyond solving practical problems, the outreach program also opened up new avenues for potential careers in safety science amongst the students. It provided a platform for students to get acquainted with UTC’s chemical engineering faculty, thus broadening their understanding of the world of technology and engineering. Consequently, students who had not initially planned on attending college decided to apply to UTC and Chattanooga State Community College to pursue degrees in engineering and mechatronics.

Impact Beyond Classrooms

Moreover, the initiative went beyond career aspirations. It prompted students to reconsider their choices, with one changing their intended college major to engineering and another applying for a job with a local electric vehicle manufacturer. The program successfully ignited enthusiasm and curiosity among students, demonstrating the power of practical and experiential learning.

Addressing Disparities and Enabling Opportunities

UTC’s College of Engineering and Computer Science undertakes approximately 10-15 community outreach programs every year, focusing primarily on underserved K-12 student populations. Such programs are a testament to the continuous efforts in bridging the gap in access to education and spreading awareness about viable education and career pathways.

The road ahead looks promising with the College planning a $250,000 upgrade for its chemical engineering labs. The upgrades, which are set to include new benches, equipment, and a mock control room, aim to serve UTC students and communities more effectively.

Reflecting on a Successful Collaboration

The involvement of UTC engineering students and Brainerd students has been deemed a motivating and inspiring experience by faculty. Students embracing challenges and showcasing their enthusiasm in group discussions and engineering challenges left a lasting impression on the participants and observers. Moreover, being able to physically create a solution that they had learned about theoretically, and seeing it work was a potent learning experience.

Megan O’Keeffe, a senior education specialist for UL Research Institutes’ Xplorlabs, emphasized the impact of such initiatives on the overall learning process. Not only did the outreach program help the students to understand the science all around us, but it also opened up potential future trajectories for the students.

Through this initiative, the academic sector has once again proven its vitality in shaping futures and creating meaningful community impact.

Author at HERE News Network

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