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Paper speakers bring music to the ears of future engineers

Nearly 300 seventh-grade students at 24 Columbus schools will be playing their favorite music through speakers made of paper, wire and magnets this week, thanks to an innovative program designed by engineering students and faculty at The Ohio State University, in collaboration with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio.

Representatives of Project Mentor—an educational outreach initiative between Columbus City Schools and Big Brothers Big Sisters—invited Ohio State electrical and computer engineering (ECE) professor Betty Lise Anderson to talk to middle school students and Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteers. Anderson knew just the activity to spark kids’ interest in science and engineering, but turned to members of RISE^ECE (Recruitment and Retention Initiative for Successful Engineers: Electrical and Computer Engineering) to coordinate the visit to 24 schools over five days.

Led by Edwin Lee, RISE^ECE president, and Paul Berger, the group’s faculty adviser, nearly 60 student volunteers were recruited from the Ohio State Minority Engineering Program, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and across campus. Volunteers had to learn how to make the speakers, prepare 300 audio cables, and cut 300 pieces of magnet wire and 300 speaker templates.

“The RISE^ECE team, especially Edwin, recruited students from National Society of Black Engineers, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the Lambda Psi Engineering Honorary, as well as students from outside engineering, to pull off this Herculean effort,” said Berger. “Activities like this show kids that science can be fun and introduces them to career possibilities like engineering that many may have never considered.”

RISE^ECE is a student organization that seeks to engage future engineers, promote the awareness of engineering as a potential career, and spark interest in science and mathematics. The speaker project is one of six hands-on activities developed by ECE students during a senior capstone design class. Anderson, who leads the ECE department’s outreach program, has used the projects to reach more than 4,000 kids at some 20 Ohio schools since 2008.

Project Mentor aims to help students work toward graduation and a lifetime of success through strong mentoring relationships. The program focuses on the assets required to improve academic performance and high school graduation, with the goal of improving the entire education community—one child at a time. For more information, visit the Project Mentor website

Find out more about RISE^ECE on their website.

Complete instructions for the speaker project are available on the ECE outreach website.

Media Contacts:
Mary Palkowski, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio, 614-839-2447 ext. 110, mpalkowski@bbbscentralohio.org
Candi Clevenger, Ohio State Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, 614-292-1806, Clevenger.87@osu.edu