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Engineering | Undergraduate Research

Cecilia La Place, Travel Grant

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Software Engineering major, Barrett Honors student, and FURI researcher Cecilia La Place recently attended the American Society for Engineering Education Conference (ASEE) in Columbus, Ohio. She presented her presentation, “Engineering Students Rapidly Learning at Hackathons,” under the mentorship of Dr. Shawn Jordan, an expert in informal engineering education. We asked Cecilia to share some details about her research and experience.

In layman terms, what was the conference about?  

Engineering education. It featured presentations, technical sessions, exhibitions and more. It was dedicated to promoting the exchange of ideas and methods to improve engineering education at all levels of education.

What motivated you to participate in this event?

I was invited to present my work after getting it approved by the reviewers and chair of my division. I felt that presenting my work was the final step in the research process and was proud to do so.

What presentations did you attend?  

I found an interesting session pertaining to Making, which discussed the definition of Making and the involvement in the Maker community. It intrigued me that the contents of the projects presented were not as electrically oriented as most Maker projects. I found myself most interested in the involvement of the minority communities and their preferences for arts and crafts, which differed from my perception of Maker’s. Having been recently introduced to the Maker community, it was encouraging to know there was a wider range of project possibilities. It makes me feel more welcome to explore the community and perhaps become involved in expanding my knowledge.

Another presentation I attended discussed the importance of extracurricular activities to develop necessary soft skills for future employment. A few of their case studies showed that despite high achieving grades or little outside experience, extracurricular activities were able to provide students with job offers. However, newly hired students found that they needed to develop new skills for their jobs as their academic knowledge was not enough or relevant. This encourages me to continue engaging in my own extracurricular activities in order to offer more value to future employers.

What was the best part about the conference?

I thoroughly enjoyed the poster session for the NSF Grantees during which I assisted Dr. Lande and Dr. Jordan’s Makers poster. It was really fun to see people get involved with the topic. People brought such interesting perspectives I’d never considered. Even though I’ve been with their research group a little over a year, it’s amazing how much information I’ve been able to absorb from learning about Makers and Makerspaces.

Has your involvement with this conference influenced your research plans?

Yes! I’m interested in seeing what other research opportunities are out there. I’m even currently involved in a more technical field of research for the summer and have applied to be a research scholar for an upcoming conference. There are so many opportunities from networking to learning that can be garnered from conferences, and being a presenter I think is really an amazing accomplishment for myself. I want to keep exploring research fields and find something I want to delve into.

Is there anything you wish you knew before attending the conference? 

How friendly and welcoming the people were. Everyone was so encouraging and supportive. I didn’t feel as pressured as I started to find a comfort in the community, and I think it resulted in my presentation going incredibly well!

Any suggestions for other students regarding conferences? 

Always take the chance to go. Conferences are learning experiences in themselves and a chance to get to know the community you might be working with. They’re great for networking and expanding your knowledge.

Final thoughts?

I expected nothing like what I experienced, and I’m really thankful that this conference was such a positive experience for me. It was a nice boost of encouragement in my abilities and a view at a world I never considered before.

Going to a conference? Have research-related travel needs? Apply for the Undergraduate Research Travel Grant!


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