About The College

2017 Engineering EXPO

2017 Engineering EXPO Blends Technology and Education to Create Fun

By Brad Stager

The University of South Florida College of Engineering's annual Engineering EXPO is a celebration of the field and how it relates to a wide range of scientific and technical disciplines. For many of the approximately 13,000 people organizers say attended this year's event, held Feb. 17 and 18, it was just a lot of educational fun.

There were robots to drive, experiments to conduct, lectures to attend and plenty of technology to discover.
Displays and interactive activities geared toward middle and high school students were hosted by USF students, professional engineering organizations, government agencies, schools and community organizations. Event sponsors included TECO Energy, ITWomen, Honeywell, Florida Advanced Technological Education Center, Gopher Resource, Onicon Flow and Energy Measurement, and Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) among others.
Engineering EXPO is organized and run by undergraduate USF engineering students like Martín Bucheli, who was this year's board president. He says EXPO has become a tradition among Tampa Bay area technology enthusiasts.
"If they come here once, they're going to want to come back," says Bucheli. "It's an event like no other."
But EXPO isn't just about exploding ping pong balls, fire-breathing dragons and Tesla coils. For families considering a technology-oriented education for their children, EXPO was a good place to collect school brochures.

Shannon Fest, chair of Bell Creek Academy's science department, says students from the Riverview charter school attended last year's EXPO and wanted to be a part of this year's event as an exhibitor. Bell Creek has a STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Mathematics) oriented curriculum and their booth featured a school-made hovercraft made of plywood, duct tape and a leaf blower as an example of what goes on its classrooms.

"The EXPO is an excellent experience," says Fest. "The kids have a lot of fun and learn so much."

Greco Middle School, which has a STEM academy option for its students, is just down the road from USF. Susan Cunningham is the lead STEM teacher at Greco and she says attending EXPO was an easy decision.

"We've got to be here because we're an engineering academy school. The students are excited to be here."

One of the Greco students demonstrating pneumatic powered robots was seventh-grader Taliah C. Wimbush, who has an interest in engineering and computer coding.
She says EXPO is an enlightening experience.

"I like to see some of the cool things people make and learn more about careers in engineering and technology."

Alicia Conner brought her three children to EXPO so they could explore technology through some of the many demonstrations of scientific principles.

"They get to see and touch some of the things in science and technology," says Conner. "There's some things we can't do at home."

One of those things might be Kevin Kohler's propane-powered flame sword. Kohler is known to almost 2.5 million YouTube subscribers as The Backyard Scientist and was featured as part of the USF X-Labs science show. Kohler is a biology student at USF's Sarasota-Manatee campus. He knows firsthand how a good show can ignite an interest.

"I was inspired to join X-Labs when I saw them setting up for EXPO," says Kohler. "I saw the Tesla coil and knew I wanted to be a part of this."

Engineers often collaborate with other technology professionals and that was exemplified by the participation of the USF Department of Physics and College of Pharmacy.

Norma Bedell is an academic services administrator with USF's College of Pharmacy. She says advances in the pharmaceutical field such as using nanotechnology, are increasing the involvement of engineers.

"The more we can tie medicine and engineering together, I think we're going to see more advances in medical technology and make something great for the future."

For members of the Engineering EXPO board, the future is just around the corner as they transition to organizing next year's event.

"EXPO never really ends for us," says Bucheli, who is working his third and last event before he graduates with a degree in industrial engineering this spring. "We accept applications to be board members in March and select them this semester so we'll hit the ground running in the fall." Bucheli also says he would like a wide range of students to apply, especially from the College of Arts and Sciences.

This year's Engineering EXPO was the 45th edition of the free event, and its theme, Elemental: Properties of the Universe, emphasized molecular interactions that connect engineers and scientists.