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RMU Looks to Build Interest in Math and Science Careers

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pittsburgh -- Robert Morris University's School of Engineering, Mathematics, and Science (SEMS) recently hosted two events through its science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM outreach) initiatives.

On Feb. 4, the school hosted the Allegheny County MATHCOUNTS Competition, organized along with the Pittsburgh Chapter of the PA Society of Professional Engineers. The competition, which is open to Allegheny County students from grades 5-8, was held in RMU's Sewall Center and welcomed 167 students from 26 schools. Students competed individually or in teams in order to qualify for the state finals, March 24 in Harrisburg. RMU, which provided proctors, graders, and volunteers for the competition, will be the featured university at the finals.

The following week, SEMS hosted the western Pennsylvania qualifier of the FIRST TECH (Robotics) Challenge (FTC), along with Pittsburgh FIRST and co-sponsored by Google Pittsburgh and RMU's Student Engagement & Outreach (SEMS-ROC). More than 200 students from 19 high schools in four states (OH, PA, NY, WV) gathered in the university's John Jay Gymnasium to compete in this state qualifying event.

In the FTC competition, teams of up to 10 students must design, build, and program a robot that meets certain specifications and can complete a certain task. This year, students had to build a robot that could bowl. Six out of the 19 competing teams qualified for the state final Feb. 25, at the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport.

"This competition teaches high school students applications of mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering/science through a problem-solving-based activity," says Arif Sirinterlikci, director of RMU's Engineering Laboratories and co-head, of SEMS-ROC. "It is a perfect way to draw interest in the STEM fields, especially engineering. Our own RMU students were engaged in inspection of the robots, judging, and resetting the fields after each match, so it was a good learning experience for them as well."

SEMS will host another competition on March 17, when the RMU Science Bowl comes to the Sewall Center. Over 50 students from grades 9-12, comprising 13 teams, are expected to participate. The science bowl will be sponsored by the national office of the Alpha Chi fraternity.

"The success of the SEMS outreach program is due to the hard work and dedication of faculty and staff," says Maria V. Kalevitch, SEMS dean and university professor of biology. "The program helps to promote STEM education and create a strong educational pipeline of incoming college students. It also helps to build the strong workforce in sciences and engineering that could be employed locally, nationally, and internationally."

Robert Morris University, founded in 1921, is a private, four-year institution with an enrollment of approximately 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university offers 60 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. An estimated 22,000 alumni live and work in western Pennsylvania.