Students Duke It Out in Texas Research Showdown

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What if there was a device that would allow UT students to create a 3-D model of any object, instantly and for free?

In fact, such a tool is already in use. It’s a 3-D printer called the Innovation Station, located in the Engineering Teaching Center, and it was designed by senior electrical engineering major Sanjai Bashyam. Bashyam’s creation netted him first place and $1,500 in the inaugural Texas Student Research Showdown, a competition meant to showcase outstanding undergraduate research projects. Among the other finalists: The science behind magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); the relationship between Christianity, hip-hop, and basketball; and how nutritional choices affect multiple sclerosis patients.

The Nov. 12 showdown was hosted by UT’s School of Undergraduate Studies and was open to students from all colleges and schools. Students created two-minute YouTube videos explaining their work, and the top six entrants presented before a live audience and a panel of judges. To lower the barrier to entry, all were invited to attend workshops on how to create videos and presentations. Organizer Robert Reichle, a senior program coordinator for UGS, says that in addition to rewarding students for their hard work, the competition was also intended to give them a chance to practice communicating scholarly research to a general audience.

“We wanted to do something where students participating would have multiple opportunities for professional development and to grow as researchers,” Reichle says.

Bashyam says that for him, that’s exactly what the showdown provided.

“Most of my presentations in the past were technical,” Bashyam says. “This one was really focused on explaining research to someone who is not an expert in the field, and I really learned a lot from that.”

Plans are in the works to make the Texas Student Research Showdown an annual event.




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