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Story by Professor Glenn Masada and Carol Grosvenor


Cub Scouts from Den 16, Pack 20, crowd around the computer screen looking at the scans from an electron microscope, shown by Rick Harrison.

Cub Scouts from Den 16, Pack 20, crowd around the computer screen looking at the scans from an electron microscope, shown by Rick Harrison.

 

The freshmen seem to get younger every year

Cub Scout den leaders Andrew Mawer, University of Texas Mechanical Engineering alum, and Kelly Tormaschy along with Mark Cruzcosa brought their sons' Bear Cub Den 16, part of Pack 20, to visit the department on April 21 for a tour of the research labs, hosted by Professors Glenn Masada and Tess Moon. The den members are all third graders at Casis Elementary School who meet at Tarrytown United Methodist Church. They are: Jackson Reimers, Jack Mawer, Matthew Tobias, Leroy Torres, Mason Oakley, Reed Cameron, Beck Phillips, Matthew Plummer, Keaton Cruzcosa, Matt Everett, Nate Tormaschy, Steven Crider, Tom Sehlke, Joe Bryant and Cade Foster. The other leader of the den (not present) is Todd Reimers.

The Tour

The boys are learning the concepts of "how things work" and "making models" this month and the Mechanical Engineering Department was an ideal place to see these concepts in practice.

The boys were given 15 minute presentations in six of the department labs given primarily by University of Texas Mechanical Engineering undergraduate and graduate students. Jorges Flores, Kyle Mozdzyn and Kyle Lowder explained the design and operation of the Society of Automotive Engineering's award-winning, high performance Formula SAE Car, and they even started the car for the scouts! Don't worry Mom, no one was allowed to drive.

Kyle Lowder, an Eagle Scout, also explained how scouting and taking responsibilities in its activities helped prepare him for the rigors of college.

Then it was off to see the Materials Characterization Lab and a scanning electron microscope, presented to them by Rick Harrison. The scouts saw high-resolution images of a fly, roly-poly, and human hair, and they were awed by the details they observed under the microscope. The specimen were coated with gold in order to make them conductive, and one scout commented that the fly would look nice on a necklace for his mother—thinking about Mother's day!

Jason Dees explained the wind tunnel to the Scouts.

Jason Dees explained the wind tunnel to the Scouts.

Next, Jason Dees showed them the wind tunnel and explained how one could use scale models to help engineers design gas turbine engines. The highlight of this visit was viewing themselves in a thermal imaging camera, and a couple of scouts vied to see who had the "hotter" tongue. Joel Marquez, another University of Texas ME Eagle Scout, conveyed his positive experiences of being a scout, and then he explained the use of Reverse Engineering. Joel took apart several popular toys and explained how engineers can enhance their own designs by learning and improving upon how others have designed and manufactured existing products.

Dr. Thomas Krueger demonstrated a graphics/computer-aided design software program and explained how the resulting designs can be downloaded and built on a prototyping machine. The scouts stood on stools to see the insides of the prototyping machine as it fabricated parts of a scissor.

Badri Muralidharan demonstrated two "sumo" mobile robots trying to push the other out of the sumo ring.

Badri Muralidharan demonstrated two "sumo" mobile robots trying to push the other out of the sumo ring.

The boys then quickly passed through the Mechatronics Lab and said hello to undergraduate students who were busy building circuits to control stepper motors. Finally, Badri Muralidharan showed the scouts the circuit cards used to generate the "Brickbreaker" videogame and demonstrated two "sumo" mobile robot (cars) trying to push the other out of the sumo ring. He offered to let the scouts play with the demonstrations, but by this time, the scout masters were hungry and ready to call it a day.

University of Texas Mechanical Engineering alumnus Andrew Mawer is a Senior Member of the Technical Staff and manages the Reliability and Analytical Labs at Freescale Semiconductor. Mawer received his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from this department in 1987 and received the department's Outstanding Young Mechanical Engineer Award in 2007 from the Mechanical Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni.


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