Lighting the way

If kids think engineering and computing involve merely solving complicated mathematical equations and writing line after boring line of computer code, they will likely take a pretty dim view of those disciplines as career options.

This Thursday’s Edison Lecture Series aims to give middle and high school students a broader perspective, shining a light on how these challenging disciplines can be interesting and fun and have a real impact on the world.

“Our main purpose is to drive these children to consider studying engineering and computing,” says Kathryn McPhail, communications director for the College of Engineering and Computing. “We let them see how it can be cool; we try to get them excited about it.”

Kicked off in 2011, the Edison Lecture Series is a yearly event that takes place during the university’s fall break. Middle and high school students from across the Midlands are treated to presentations and interactive demonstrations in Swearingen Engineering Center’s Amoco Hall.

Speakers over the past three years have highlighted engaging technological topics, from TV to robotics to energy production. A demonstration about surveillance included an FBI crew that both entertained and educated the young audience.

Attendance has grown from a couple hundred students in the first year to the nearly 1,000 students and teachers expected for this Thursday’s three sessions. The series has proven so popular that the venue is at full capacity this year, and the college is considering ways to make room for more students in 2015, McPhail says.

This year’s registrants will enjoy a great show. Jenay Beer, who has dual appointments in the CEC and the College of Social Work, will talk about human and robot interaction. J.J. Shepherd of the CEC will give a presentation titled “Better lives through gaming.”

Tony Ambler, dean of the CEC and founder of the event, hopes the Edison Lecture Series will inspire young students to become the technological innovators that the nation’s future will require.

“The U.S. does not produce nearly enough engineers or computer scientists,” Ambler said. “We must continue to encourage our own sons and daughters that engineering and computing are very worthwhile professions, and then give them the best education they can possibly get.”

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To learn how you can support teaching, research and outreach at the College of Engineering and Computing, visit Carolina's Promise.

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