Friday, May 3, 2013

FSU's College of Liberal Arts Hosts Undergraduate Research Symposium

by Skye Pinney

Earlier today, students from each department of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences gathered in the ARMAH of the Lane Center to represent a variety of disciplines at the second annual Undergraduate Research Symposium. After opening remarks from Provost Steven J. Simpson, who said with satisfaction that the symposium had grown since last year, they stood at their poster-board displays, answering questions for the faculty members and students who meandered about the room.

Juniors Billy Briggs, Ahmed Owokodu, Dan Herold and graduate assistant Daniel Henneberger were among some of the Computer Science majors presenting at the Symposium. They were the first group from FSU to compete in the 2012 Maryland Cyber Challenge and Conference (MDC3) that took place last Fall. The first stage of the competition required them to “harden a security system, closing back doors and ensuring a more secure system,” and in the second round they “practiced identifying encryption schemes.” They didn’t make it to the third and final round, but “we will next year,” Briggs said, smiling.

Henneberger was the group's team leader for the competition.

Some of the presentations engaged more than just the mind. Ethnobotony major Gabriel Echeverri handed out tiny paper cups of homemade root beer in front of his poster, titled “Beverages of the Burg.” “This is what root beer is supposed to be. It’s made from sassafras roots,” he said, offering someone a cup and a sassafras root to smell. His poster illustrated how to make the root beer step-by-step. According to Echeverri, the Appalachian area and the University’s arboretum are filled with useable plants like this root. He and his group hope to host cider-making events sometime in the future. 

Representing the Engineering department, seniors Jacob Owens and Philip Sharpe explained their water purification device. “It’s basically a still, but a little more complicated,” Owens says. “It works with rain, seawater, or any other water in overabundance. It’s stainless steel, so it was designed with desalination in mind.” They hope to use the $1100 device to operate the hydrogen generator in the SERF building, which requires deionized water. Their still is significant because it uses a vacuum to lower the boiling point of water, minimizing the heat input and therefore saving energy. “Typically water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. In a vacuum, it boils at 165 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Sharpe.

Senior Engineering major Time Steele poses in front of his project, a conversion nozzle system for a vertical axis wind turbine. 

Junior Geography major Michael Kennedy said the Symposium was an "enriching opportunity to learn what others were doing with their research." Overall, it was a success.

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