Center for Power Optimization of Electro-thermal Systems

A Great Year for POETS' Outreach

During the '21-'22 school year, POETS students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign were actively involved in STEM educational outreach at local elementary schools. Throughout the year,  interactive experiments were conducted with 2nd-6th graders at Wiley Elementary School, Mahomet Elementary School, and Booker T. Washington STEM Academy which resulted in hundreds of student interactions to educate and excite students about a career in STEM. 

POETS' student helping students add switch to battery powered car.
POETS student, Cary Laird Butler (Ph.D., MechSE, Prof. Alleyne), helping students add a switch to the battery-powered car. Photo by Joe Muskin


In November and December, POETS students conducted a five-week outreach program at Wiley Elementary. where students progressively built a battery-powered car. This project allowed students to learn about the interaction of electricity and mechanical components which govern the vehicles of the present and future. Each week, the students progressively built the car which included batteries, motors, 3-D printed wheels, and switches. Through repeated visits to the school over a five-week period, volunteers were able to develop relationships with students and see them grow in confidence when working with electrical and mechanical components.


In March, POETS conducted two outreach events with the Mahomet Elementary School Science Club. One day of these events focused on thermal experiments, while the other focused on electromagnet experiments. On the first day, students learned about electromagnetism and its application in transportation electrification. They built a simple electric motor prototype and were shown how electromagnetic breaks work. At last, a demo of a simple electric train, built using a battery, magnet, and coil, was shown to them. The second day taught students about thermal management by seeing a difference in thermal conductivity between materials and learning how thee can be used for removing and retaining heat as desired. The electrical experiments allowed students to build a motor and battery from household materials to visualize electro-chemical and electro-magnetic interactions. 


POETS students Anjana Samarakoon, Frank Andujar Lugo, and Reid Smith help students build a simple battery-powered motor.
POETS' students Anjana Samarakoon (M.S., ECE, Prof. Haran), Frank Andujar Lugo (Ph.D., MechSE, Prof. Alleyne), and Reid Smith (Ph.D., MechSE, Prof. Alleyne) help students build a simple battery-powered motor.  Photo by Joe Muskin


In May, POETS conducted an engineering expo at Booker T. Washington STEM Academy where ten organizations, including POETS, set up experimental booths with which students could interact. This restarted a pre-pandemic tradition of a spring engineering expo at Booker T. Washington and POETS looks forward to continuing this tradition into the future. These booths included interactive sessions on chemistry experiments, building paper airplanes, thermal cameras, and other activities. Additionally, students were able to win a gift bag for interacting with each of the booths!


At the POETS Technical Conference, students participated in an outreach training session to practice the outreach curriculum prepared by UIUC outreach coordinators. After receiving an overview on the single-day outreach experiments on electricity and thermal management, teams of students raced to build a working battery-powered car and a one-volt battery.


POETS students lining up cars for a race at the 2022 Tech Conference.
POETS students lining up cars for a race at the 2022 Tech Conference.  Photo by Elie Libbos
Cary Laird Butler (Ph.D., MechSE, Prof. Alleyne), Shamar Christian (Ph.D., EE, University of Arkansas, Prof. Balda), Frank Andujar Lugo (Ph.D., MechSE, Prof. Alleyne), Chris Urbanski (Ph.D., MechSE, Prof. Alleyne), Phil Renkert (M.S., MechSE, Prof. Alleyne), and Waheed Bello (M.S., AE, Prof. James).


Overall, these outreach activities allowed POETS students to help build excitement around STEM topics within the Urbana-Champaign community and train for the next year of outreach. As part of the organization, a curriculum was built for each of these activities which can be used in future years. As the new year of school begins, we look forward to what POETS outreach will have in store!


Outreach Coordinators
Outreach coordinators Elie Libbos (Ph.D., ECE, Prof. Banerjee) and Reid Smith (Ph.D., MechSE, Prof. Alleyne).