College of Engineering News Room

USF Engineering Expo Goes Virtual for its 49th Year

USF Engineering Expo YouTube Channel

See all the experiments, events and experiences from this year’s Engineering Expo on the USF Engineering Expo YouTube channel.

by Russell Nay

Since 1973, Engineering Expo has conducted a two-day, hands-on science fair for K-12 students at the USF Tampa campus. Amid an unprecedented pandemic, the students of this year’s Expo planning committee pivoted Expo’s experiments and experiences online to continue the tradition of College of Engineering’s longest running event.

In place of a two-day event on campus, Expo was transformed into a five-day, virtual event with student organizations and industry partners presenting remotely via Microsoft Teams or submitting pre-recorded videos to the USF Engineering Expo YouTube channel.

“This year's Engineering Expo was designed with the safety of our attendees and presenters in mind,” said Valentina Salcedo, Expo planning committee student president. “In the lieu of the current global situation, we decided to hold our event entirely virtual but still accomplishing our mission of inspiring the youth of our community to get involved with STEM and explore the endless amount of opportunities these fields have for them.”

Run entirely by USF engineering students each year, Expo typically attracts 15,000 K-12 students, teachers and parents to campus. Salcedo said the Expo planning committee hopes the event has a much broader outreach this year due to its recorded nature. Live presentations were recorded and uploaded to the USF Engineering Expo YouTube channel alongside videos submitted before Expo, and each can be viewed by K-12 students around the world.

Orgs presenting during Engineering Expo 2021

Students from the USF American Society of Civil Engineers (top left and right) showed Expo members what it takes to build a canoe from concrete and compete against civil engineering orgs from other universities. USF Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (middle left and right) students showed viewers how to create an electromagnetic field and demonstrated how an Arduino-powered robot can use infrared sensors to guide itself along a line. USF Engineering Medical Society (bottom left and right) students created at-home versions of popular Expo experiments like the radiation laser and air cannon for attendees to watch remotely.

Salcedo said that moving Engineering Expo entirely online took lots of passion and creativity. The team was motivated by a desire to give back to the community and inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians. 

“There was a lot of thought and effort put into how we could still offer meaningful experiences for our K-12 students while not compromising their safety, and through the dedication and creativity of our organizing board, we were able to accomplish this,” she said.

This year, there were 27 live sessions throughout the week ranging from demonstrations on unpoppable bubbles, to holding fire in one’s hand, cancer-treatment lasers, arm wrestling robots, robot soccer games and lab tours. During live presentations, audience members could ask exhibitors questions about each experiment or showcase as well as answer questions to participate in giveaways for more than 50 expo-at-home kits. These allow lucky winners to perform hands-on science experiments from the safety of their homes.

A scene from MOSI's 2021 Engineering Expo exhibit #1

In addition to demonstrations on rockets and telescopes, one of several live Expo MOSI exhibits included a scale model of the solar system using proportional spheres and a walkway at MOSI to give audience members an idea of how large and far apart the planets are.

The USF Engineering Expo website also featured an Expo DIY section this year. The page contains video guides for K-12 students to conduct their own home experiments with simple household materials, complete with explanations of the scientific principles behind each experiment.

The 2021 Engineering Expo DIY Page

At-home experiments on the DIY Experiments section of the USF Engineering Expo website are organized by elementary school and middle/high school grade level for content and complexity.

Sponsors of the 2021 USF Engineering Expo include MOSI, TECO, Lockheed Martin, ASHRAE’s Florida West Coast chapter, iD Tech, Gopher Resource, Mosaic and American Structurepoint Inc.

Visit the USF Engineering Expo YouTube channel to watch all of this year’s Expo experiments and experiences in full, and see some of the highlights in this recap edit.