Wednesday afternoon University of Arkansas Fort Smith Students in the STEM Living Learning Community convened at the Fort Smith Regional Airport to experience 3-D Laser scanning, also known as light detection and ranging technology (LiDAR,) in action.
The UAFS Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics students teamed up with young engineers from HSA Engineering and Morrison-Shipley Engineers Inc., to gain a greater understanding of the principles of LiDAR technology and its real-world applications for mechanical and electrical engineers.
The teams moved through the intricate mechanical rooms of the Fort Smith Regional Airport, navigating around steam systems, sophisticated air handlers, fire protection systems, and electrical boxes. As the engineers demonstrated the LiDAR tech, students experienced the speed this leading-edge technology offers engineers when obtaining complex measurements, as well as the intricate process of moving about a room to capture complete data.
“Bringing students into a place where they can experience sophisticated instrumentation and techniques that have real-world application, offers them something they won’t see every day,” said Greg Shipley, PE, president, and co-founder of Morrison-Shipley. The equipment on hand and technology like it have wide-ranging uses, from IT fields to structural and industrial planning, and even has applications in biomedical fields when taking bone measurements or fitting patients for prosthetics, Shipley added.
Following the scan, the teams had a round table discussion. The engineers quickly pulled the collected data and thoroughly explained the workflow the engineers then use to build a Revit (BIM) model of the equipment. The engineers were also able to show the students a series of completed examples from some recent locations and data centers that were fully modeled in Revit.
“Actually seeing the equipment and how they actually map out a room using lasers and pictures to get a 3D image was inspiring,” said UAFS freshman Matia Stewart of Fort Smith. “It makes me see that there is an end goal, and if I keep on pushing toward the end game, I can get where they are. It gives me hope to keep going.”
The engineers also answered questions about job searches, career pathways, licensure tracks, and professional practice in the engineering field.
“It’s worth it,” emphasized Brianca Hollins, a mechanical design engineer with HSA. “These careers are better than what you see in a textbook. It’s challenging, but it’s so rewarding to actually see your work, see the projects you’ve worked on go up around town.”
Though the panel laughed about their use of calculators and Google after graduating from college, they reminded the students of the importance of creating a solid foundation for conceptual learning. “Even though we have software now, those [calculus and complex math] formulas make you understand, they make you think, and they make sense of the data,” Hollins said.
“We are very grateful to our partners for making these opportunities available to our students,” said Dr. Ron Darbeau, dean of the College of STEM. “Such engagements showcase the importance and applications of STEM and crystallize for our students the everyday impact of their education.”
Students participating in the STEM Living Learning Community also met with faculty from Arkansas Colleges of Health Sciences earlier this semester, and have engaged in numerous STEM-centered activities to build relationships among their peers, and explore the breadth of STEM application in the world.