November 9, 2018
San Antonio College students take part in electro-thermal research and make a connection with the University of Arkansas
Earlier this year, a group of San Antonio College engineering students spent their summer working on projects related to electro-thermal research and, in the process, made a connection with the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Based on the work by the students, the university wants to enter a formal transfer agreement with SAC.
SAC students, Eric Allee, Julio Banda, Isaac Medina, and Allie Moore, were recruited by the Center for Power Optimization of Electro-Thermal Systems (lyrically known as POETS). POETS is a collaborative effort of several colleges including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Howard University, Stanford University and the University of Arkansas.
POETS’ mission is to improve the use of power and electricity, specifically in terms of mobility and transport – think electric cars and airplanes – and what can be done to modify motors, electronics, batteries and other related components to make them more efficient. In addition, POETS researches the electrical power grid and how to keep it safe and running. The center was created four years ago and last year was the first time it recruited students from community colleges.
“Community colleges are places where there is a lot of untapped potential,” said Dr. Jessica Perez, associate director of Education and Inclusivity for POETS, who added “we were very particular about the community colleges we reached out to.”
Moore has been at SAC since the summer of 2017 majoring in electrical engineering. She went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to conduct research on using water to cool down components that heated up while creating electric power.
Moore said she felt a little intimidated in the beginning since she was working with graduate students on a project she was unfamiliar with. However, after spending two weeks doing intensive reading, she was up to speed and actively participating in the research. She also learned she was in her element. “I love research. I could sit in a lab all day,” Moore said.
SAC students, Allee, Banda, and Medina, were chosen to conduct research at the University of Arkansas. The trio worked with printed circuit boards to test applications for micro grids, small, self-contained power grids for communities which are connected to the national grid. Their research can be used to help support, maintain, and protect the main grid from natural and man-made disasters.
For the students, the summer experience was life changing. At the end of the summer, Allee spoke to staff at the University of Arkansas and said he wanted to transfer for the fall semester. Within 10 days, he was enrolled at the university and starting school.
Banda and Medina, who attended the POETS annual conference this fall at the University of Arkansas, also said they are seriously looking at transferring to the campus as well.
And as the students were impressed with the University of Arkansas, the university was similarly impressed with the caliber of SAC students.
In October, Perez returned to the MESA Center to recruit new students to participate in the POETS program for next year. During her visit, she said the University of Arkansas’ assistant dean for student recruitment and diversity would be coming to SAC to recruit students and to begin conversations about a formal transfer agreement between the two schools.
Any transfer agreement between the University Arkansas and SAC will take some time but for students the outcome will be worth the effort. “You want to set up the students for success and that’s ultimately what we want,” said Perez.