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American Water Enterprises $60,000 Grant to Support Science and Technology Students

By Brian Peters

Release Date: August 9, 2011

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Buffalo-area Engineering Awareness for Minorities (BEAM), the University at Buffalo's program dedicated to increasing minorities and females entering the engineering and technical professions, has received $60,000 from American Water Enterprises Inc.

BEAM has prepared inner-city, minority, female and other under-represented students for careers in science, engineering and technology since 1982. The program was created by UB's School of Engineering, Linde-Union Carbide (now Praxair Inc.), Omega Phi Psi Fraternity and Buffalo Public Schools.

BEAM relies on donations such as the latest grant from American Water Enterprises and other companies, educational institutions, community organizations and individuals.

The $60,000 from American Water Enterprises is the largest single donation BEAM has ever received. It will help fund field trips for the students to places like the Darwin Martin House, the New York Power Authority and Cannon Design. The donation will also cover the cost of educational kits for the students, which teach students about technology used hydropower, solar cars and rockets.

This year's 18 BEAM summer-program students come from local high schools, including Alden, Buffalo Seminary, Canisius, the Charter School of Applied Technologies, City Honors, Clarence, Hutch Tech, Immaculata, Kenmore East, Nardin Academy, Orchard Park, the St. Joseph Collegiate Institute and Sweet Home.

The students conduct mini-research projects focusing on seven of the National Engineering Academies' Grand Engineering Challenges: make solar energy economical, develop carbon sequestration methods, advance health informatics, reverse-engineer the brain, prevent nuclear terror, advance personalized learning and engineer the tools for scientific discovery. Since 2009, BEAM students have sought innovative ways to solve these challenges.

The students give oral presentations and write reports at the end of the five-week summer-program.

The students are also enrolled in pre-calculus and Introduction to Computing and Engineering courses taught by Christine D. Wingo. A former BEAM student herself, Wingo has since received a master's degree in industrial and systems engineering from UB.

"The BEAM program has many benefits for the givers and receivers," says Wingo. "It is a matter of giving back where it is needed."

Assisting Wingo in teaching these courses is Lavone Rodolph, another former BEAM student who is working toward a PhD in computer science and engineering. Rodolph developed a Computer Science Innovation mini-course that gives students better insight into computer science and programming. The students will make a web page they can maintain at the end of the program.

Five of the BEAM students were also selected as Honors Research Students, and are working directly with UB professors on advanced engineering projects.

Mark Swihart, professor of chemical and biological engineering, and Munish Sharma, a chemical and biological engineering PhD student, work with one of the BEAM Honors research students. Together they are developing a new process for making metal nanomaterials useful for antibacterial purposes.

"The student will learn some specific things about chemistry, chemical engineering and nanotechnology," says Swihart. "More importantly, they will be exposed to the process and culture from which new scientific discoveries and technological innovations arise.

"This should give them a clear picture of what life as a graduate student or professional researcher might be like, and whether this is a career path that might match their interests," he said. "Even if that is not the case, I hope they will come away from the experience with an appreciation of how scientific and engineering research is conducted that will make them a more scientifically literate citizen."

BEAM and BEAM volunteers have received numerous honors, including awards from the Buffalo Board of Education, the Mayor's Commitment to Education and the U.S. Department of Labor Exemplary Public Interest Contribution (EPIC) Award.

Parents interested in enrolling their children in the BEAM program can find more information at http://www.eng.buffalo.edu/beam/.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system that is its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.