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2017 ACC STEM Workshop for Middle & High School Students & Teachers

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The AACC Education Committee and IEEE CSS Technical Committee on Control Education organized and presented a STEM Workshop for middle and high school students and teachers on “The Power, Beauty and Excitement of the Cross-Boundaries Nature of Control, a Field that Spans Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM)” at the 2017 American Control Conference on May 24, 2017 in Seattle, WA.

This outreach event is designed to increase the general awareness of the importance of systems and control technology and its cross-disciplinary nature among high school students and teachers. Control is used in many common devices and systems: cell phones, computer hard drives, automobiles, and aircraft, but is usually hidden from view. The control field spans science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The success of all STEM disciplines depends on attracting the most gifted young people to science and engineering professions. Early exposure to middle and high school students and their teachers is a key factor. The goal of these outreach efforts is to promote an increased awareness of the importance and cross- disciplinary nature of control and systems technology.

The workshop activities include presentations by control systems experts from our technical community, informal discussions, and the opportunity for teachers and students to meet passionate researchers and educators from academia and industry. The talks are designed to be educational, inspirational and entertaining showing the excitement of controls.

Fourteen students and three teachers from University Prep and Raisbeck Aviation High School attended the workshop along with several participants of the conference.

Seven speakers delivered exciting talks on a wide range of topics in control and its applications that were educational, engaging, inspiring, and motivating for further learning about control.  The workshop activities included presentations by control systems experts from our technical community, informal discussions, and the opportunities for teachers and students to meet passionate professionals from academe and industry.

One student wrote, I am excited for the new technology that is to come from the field of control systems and automated technologies.  From autonomous robots to artificial pancreas, the futurity of our world depends on the research of this field.

Another wrote, I was the most interested by the new technologies that are being developed through the process of feedback control, so that various actions can be done without human interaction (ex) driver-less cars and automatic shots of insulin with help of machine).

The workshop was organized by Bozenna Pasik-Duncan (University of Kansas) and Linda Bushnell (University of Washington) with significant help from Afef Fekih (University of Louisiana) and Tyrone Duncan (University of Kansas). Speakers and topics included:

  • Bio-inspired Control Engineering - What Animals Teach, Professor John Baillieul, Boston University 
  • Control of Complex Systems, Professor Andrew Clark, Worcester Polytechnic Institute  
  • Predicting Epilepsy after Traumatic Brain Injuries and Exploring MRI Data in Virtual Reality, Professor Dominique Duncan, University of Southern California
  • Synthetic Biology: How to Program a Bacterium, Professor Richard Murray, California Institute of Technology
  • Swimming and Flying in Engineering and Biology, Professor Kristi Morgansen, University of Washington 
  • Universal Laws and Architectures in Brains and Nets, Professor John Doyle, California Institute of Technology
  • How to Build a Self-driving Car, Professor Richard Murray, California Institute of Technology
  • Imagining the Robots of Science Fiction, Professor Aaron D. Ames, California Institute of Technology

What was the most important thing you learned today?  Some student responses were:

  • I learned about how significant and important feedback control was.  Feedback control is a concept that can be applied to various real-life situations, including training/teaching robots, developing driver-less vehicles, and medical uses.
  • I discovered the many applications of control systems, and the significance of its research and development.  I learned that our technology is continuously expanding and the topic of control spans across multiple fields.
  • Control is actually valued in more things than we think.  It can be used for revolutionary advancements and health innovations.  Technology is vastly important for health, education, and security in the future.
  • New technologies are being formed and one important part in each is the control and feedback.
  • The new scientific advances people are making in the field of control systems.
  • The importance of mathematics in the world.