Arizona FIRST LEGO League champs inspired by international competition

Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Outreach | 0 comments

The Local Legends at the FIRST LEGO League World Festival. From left are Wesley Chiu (Grade 8), Alex Chiu (Grade 10), Josh Tint (Grade 6), Jeremy Wang (Grade 7) and Michael Gross (Grade 8). Photograph courtesy of FIRST LEGO League.

The Local Legends at the FIRST LEGO League World Festival. From left are Wesley Chiu (Grade 8), Alex Chiu (Grade 10), Josh Tint (Grade 6), Jeremy Wang (Grade 7) and Michael Gross (Grade 8). Photograph courtesy of FIRST LEGO League.

The first-place Champions’ Award winners at last year’s Arizona FIRST LEGO League (AZ FLL) state championship tournament at Arizona State University put in a solid performance at the recent FIRST LEGO League World Festival in St. Louis.

Local Legends, a group of five students at Catalina Foothills Community School in Tucson, was one of 105 teams from 35 countries to gather for the annual event.

The squad was one of more than 300 teams of youngsters from schools and communities throughout Arizona to participate last year in the AZ FLL program, which is managed by ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Local Legends finished atop the 62 teams that earned their way to the 2014 AZ FLL championship tournament on ASU’s Tempe campus.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an international organization founded by renowned inventor Dean Kamen.

The FIRST LEGO League robotics competitions encourage students to use science, technology, engineering and math skills to design, build and program robots made from LEGO MINDSTORMS kits, and to enable the robots to perform various tasks to earn points.

Teams also must complete a research project designed to give them problem-solving challenges. They are judged during competitions on teamwork, professionalism, respect for fellow competitors and similar FLL “core values.”


Charlotte Ackerman won an award at the FLL Word Festival for her years as a coach and mentor of student teams involved in engineering, technology and science competitions. She is the coach of the Local Legends, winners of last year’s Arizona FIRST LEGO League state championship tournament. Photograph courtesy of FIRST LEGO League.

The members of Local Legends gathered every weekend during the past several months to prepare for the FLL World Festival, said Charlotte Ackerman, the team’s coach and a teacher leader for science and engineering practices at Catalina Foothills school.

Team members also volunteered at two local elementary schools’ Open Robotic Lab Nights and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) events to introduce the younger students to robot programming.

The team then put in some extra work on weeknights as the World Festival approached.

“It was both a marathon and a whirlwind getting ready to go,” Ackerman said.

Local Legends overcame a setback when a part of its robot broke. But the team bounced back into contention, earning awards nominations for their research efforts, professionalism and technical know-how, while receiving positive comments from judges.

In addition, Ackerman won an award for her coaching and mentoring contributions.

Her nomination for the award was supplemented by letters of praise from former students on the 60 teams she has coached over the years.

Some of the students have gone on to study engineering and science at leading universities. They noted Ackerman’s influence on their choice of what paths to pursue in higher education and careers.

Ackerman and her Local Legends team came home from the FLL World Festival “inspired and with some new ideas for robot programming to try,” she said. “The team immediately began talking about how they could apply what they learned” to prepare for this year’s Arizona FLL competition.

The 2015 season theme is Trash Trek. Both the robotics “playing field” and the research project for the competition will challenge students to explore better ways to manage the world’s trash.

“One of the beautiful things about FLL is that each season’s theme encourages children to think critically about real-world problems and innovative ways to go about solving them. Teams learn that engineering is fun and important,” said Jennifer Velez, a senior education outreach coordinator for the Fulton Schools of Engineering and the FLL managing partner in Arizona.

As many as 350 teams from throughout the state are expected to compete this year for a chance to go to the state tournament.

With the increasing number of teams, the program will need more volunteers, Velez said. Some volunteers work directly with teams as mentors, others work in technical and nontechnical roles to help put on regional tournaments and the state championship tournament.

Those interested in volunteering can check the AZ FLL website for information about getting involved.

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Undergrad earns poster award at cancer research conference

Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Research, Students | 0 comments

Nitish Peela working alongside assistant professor Mehdi Nikkhah in the Nikkhah Lab. Their research focuses on creating 3-D breast tumor models on a chip.

Nitish Peela (left) working alongside assistant professor Mehdi Nikkhah in the Nikkhah Lab. Their research focuses on creating 3-D breast tumor models on a chip. Photographer Jessica Hochreiter/ASU

Nitish Peela, a sophomore studying biomedical engineering, received a top ten award for his poster presentation at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Held April 18-22, the conference brought together researchers from all over the world to discuss and highlight the latest and most exciting discoveries in areas of cancer research—including treatments, diagnostics and prevention.

Peela’s presentation was entitled “Breast Cancer Cell Invasion in a Highly Organized Three-Dimensional (3-D) Tumor Model.”

It highlighted a portion of the research he conducts in Mehdi Nikkhah’s lab as an undergraduate researcher. Nikkhah is an assistant professor in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, one of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

“[In the Nikkhah Lab] we’re creating a physiologically relevant 3-D breast tumor model on a chip,” said Peela.

“This enables us to conduct accurate controlled studies on cancer invasion and develop causal relationships between microenvironmental cues and cancer cell behavior,” he added.

Another benefit of the research is its potential to reduce the necessity of animal models in cancer research.

“Peela takes an active role in designing and independently conducting experiments and gathering biological data relevant to his project,” said Nikkhah. “He is eager to assist his colleagues in bringing their projects to fruition and he is a great contributor in lab meetings,” he added.

Peela’s research is supported by the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (FURI)—a program that supports undergraduate student participation in research under the mentorship of ASU engineering faculty members. In addition to offering a research stipend, FURI fully funded Peela’s travel costs and conference fees.

“From FURI I received valuable insight, motivation and funding to complete my research project,” said Peela.

Peela said what he most enjoyed about the conference was its focus on implementing research in clinical settings.

“It was inspiring to see scientists focus on translating research to a clinical setting in order to bridge the gap between cancer research and viable treatment options for cancer patients,” said Peela.

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Write a poem for robots

Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Opportunities | 0 comments

Poetry for Robots is a digital humanities experiment sponsored by Neologic Labs, Web Visions, and the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination. Click on an inspirational photo and write a poem of 20 words or less. At Webvisions Chicago 2015, the scientists will perform search operations on the image bank and see what the robots have learned from the poetry, metaphorical connections, and the human view of the world.

Give it a try at

Poetry 4 Robots image

Photo from website.

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International student orientation, August 13 or 14

Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Events, International Students | 0 comments

Incoming international students at Arizona State University are required to attend an International Student Orientation program. You will join students from around the globe to learn important information about the university and how to prepare for a successful academic year.

Fall 2015 International Student Orientation program
Thursday, August 13, 2015 for graduate students
Friday, August 14, 2015 for freshmen and transfer students
Gammage Auditorium, Tempe campus
Attendance is required, bring your ASU Student Identification Card to check in to the program. 

Transportation from Downtown Phoenix, Polytechnic and West campuses
Transportation to the program will be available for students living at the Downtown Phoenix, Polytechnic and West campuses. Please submit the Orientation Transportation Form if you need transportation from your campus to the International Orientation.

Learn more about international student orientation.

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Faculty, staff offer essential reading list

Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Announcements, Resources | 0 comments


Arizona State University engineering librarian Linda Shackle can help you locate books recommended here by faculty and staff members in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. E-mail

Aspiring engineers are not educated and primed for success solely by knowledge gained through textbooks, lectures and lab projects. Venturing beyond the academic milieu to seek insights into areas both related to and distant from the world of engineering can provide valuable lessons. Here, 10 faculty and staff members in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering write about books that can take you on journeys of discovery to expand your education — or maybe just keep you intellectually engaged or simply entertained on breaks between semesters.

For more reading recommendations see previous years’ editions of this feature: Essential reading 2014, Essential reading 2013, and Essential reading 2012

“Salt: A World History” by Mark Kurlansky

Oswald Chong

Oswald Chong

Recommended by Oswald Chong, associate professor, School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment

This is a fascinating book that every engineer should read. If you look back in human history, you will find salt is one of the rare materials that changed our world in many ways. Like oil and sand, salt is one of Earth’s abundant materials and substances that in some times and places was seen as largely undesirable (because it caused rust) and at other times and places became extremely valuable (as food). It makes you wonder: Are there other materials we think of today as “undesirable” that will someday make some people rich and powerful?

“Set Phasers on Stun” by Steven Casey

Nancy Cooke

Nancy Cooke

Recommended by Nancy Cooke, professor, The Polytechnic School

This book recounts 20 true stories of disasters (in some cases very gruesome) that result from the failure of technology to effectively connect to humans. Most of the disasters are not the result of a single point failure in the system or human interface, but multiple issues that often interact to result in unanticipated consequences. In one instance an individual receives more than 125 times the prescribed dose of radiation therapy due to a poor interface for delivering the doses, coupled with the fact that the screaming patient was in a different location from the technician and the video monitor in the patient’s room was not plugged in and the voice intercom between rooms was not working. Needless to say, the patient died a slow, agonizing death as a result. When you read these stories you can’t help but be bewildered by the poor design of technology and the lack of consideration of the human user. These true stories inspire me to help make systems that are useable, resilient and safe for humans.

“Ready for Takeoff!” by Dean C. Millar

Robin Hammond

Robin Hammond

Recommended by Robin Hammond, director, Fulton Schools of Engineering Career Center

This book is written for engineering and technical students by professionals who give best-of-the-best career guidance on how to design a college experience that paves a pathway to a dream job, followed by practical advice to how to chart a great career trajectory. What differentiates this compact guide from other career advice materials is its expert guidance contextualized in engineering and technical fields. This how-to guide is suitable for students and new professionals at every level.

“For Your Improvement” published by Korn-Ferry

Recommended by Robin Hammond, director, Fulton Schools of Engineering Career Center

My first introduction to this guide was when I was sitting with a new engineering manager who was struggling to develop and grow his team of experienced professionals and new interns, while managing his own career. He credited this book for helping him overcome his most difficult workplace problem: people skills. This book is a highly regarded professional development reference of overused and underused skills and instruction on how to achieve optimal human growth. I have recommended it many times to students and professionals who lead, plan to lead, mentor, and are mentored, who are seeking to grow professionally, or who have succeeded and want to accelerate their careers. The book is a reference guide rather than a cover-to-cover read. The newer editions are a costly resource (although well worth the price), but I’ve found the earlier editions – which sell for anywhere from $6 to $20 – just as valuable.

“The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History” by Elizabeth Kolbert

Zachary Holman

Zachary Holman

Recommended by Zachary Holman, assistant professor, School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering

Two reasons to read “The Sixth Extinction”: (1) Elizabeth Kolbert is a genius, and (2) Elizabeth Kolbert is a genius. Kolbert tells perhaps the most important story of our era – that of the sixth mass extinction in recorded history, this time thanks to the global success of humankind – through 13 episodic chapters that take us from mastodon teeth to coral polyps. Kolbert is first a genius as a storyteller: She brings data to life and weaves it into a compelling tale that should make engineers and politicians alike marvel at our world and strive to save it. She is also a genius as a science writer. We should all strive to emulate her accuracy, clarity and creativity.

“Alice, Let’s Eat: Further Adventures of a Happy Eater” by Calvin Trillin

Recommended by Zachary Holman, assistant professor, School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering

When you have had enough of homework and are ready for something both fun and funny, pick up this Calvin Trillin book. I challenge you not to enjoy yourself (and drool a bit) as you follow Calvin on his adventures in search of something decent to eat. Have you heard of anyone else boarding a short flight with a “picnic” of caviar, smoked salmon, crudités with pesto sauce, tomato-curry soup, butterfish, spiced clams, lime and dill shrimp, tomatoes stuffed with guacamole, mussels, pâté, veal, a bottle of wine from Burgundy, chocolate cake, and praline cheesecake? (Don’t worry – he loves barbecue, too.)

“The Idea Factory” by Joe Gertner

Owen Hildreth

Owen Hildreth

Recommended by Owen Hildreth, assistant professor, School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy

For several decades of the 20th century, Bell Labs — a part of AT&T — was the premier research and development institution in the world. Merging engineering, applied sciences and fundamental science, Bell Lab’s leaders were responsible for many of the technologies that form the basis of the world today — transistors, satellites, lasers, digital and cellular communications, photovoltaics, and more. The lab operated in a unique way at a unique time in American history. In his book, Gertner chronicles the origins of the ideas that led to these important modern inventions and tells an inspiring story that shows how research impacts our society.

“The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries

Brent Sebold

Brent Sebold

Recommended by Brent Sebold, lecturer and director, Startup Center

If you consider yourself to be an innovator, a scientist, or an engineer who aims to create something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty, this book will change your life and shape your future, as it did for me. Ries took a variety of convoluted innovation strategies that had bubbled up from the lean manufacturing movement, as well as from the post-dot com bubble burst, and turned them into pure poetry.  Following in the footsteps of Steve Blank, the evidence-based entrepreneurship guru who was his professor, mentor and investor, Ries reinforced the argument that startup ventures are not smaller versions of large companies – a rebuttal to an axiom that had been offered to neophyte entrepreneurs within every business school and MBA program over the past century. With “The Lean Startup,” Ries sets himself apart from his predecessors by clearly defining startup founding teams as temporary organizations searching around in the dark for repeatable, scalable business models. As a result, this book sparked a methodological sea change within the messy realm of entrepreneurship and innovation. It offers a pragmatic tool chest to support the belief that entrepreneurs aren’t born, they’re made.

“The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz

Recommended by Brent Sebold, lecturer and director, Startup Center

Horowitz writes humorously about how some of today’s most respected engineers and entrepreneurs came of age in the Silicon Valley.  Set to a hip-hop soundtrack, the book reinforces the fact that innovation — and subsequent societal or marketplace impact — is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. Now stop being a “wantrepreneur.” Read this book, roll up your sleeves, and get to work.

“Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History” by Erik Larson

Linda Shackle

Linda Shackle

Recommended by Linda Shackle, librarian, Daniel E. Noble Science and Engineering Library

Hurricanes as a rule do not strike Texas and those that do are weak storms, stated Isaac Cline in an 1891 article in the Galveston Daily News. Cline was the director of the Texas section of the Weather Bureau and his office was in Galveston. Educated, dedicated to his job and having proved himself a sufficiently accurate forecaster, Cline was what the newly formed Weather Bureau needed as it struggled to achieve legitimacy. Strangely, Cline’s confident statement on the matter of hurricanes glossed over what had happened when two strong hurricanes had hit the Texas coast recently, one in September 1875 and another in August 1886. Cline considered these weak aberrations unlikely to happen again. Cline knew that hurricanes always moved up the Atlantic coast, they did not cross the Gulf of Mexico. On September 8, 1900, the hurricane that struck Galveston would shatter Cline’s statements the same way it would shatter the homes, businesses and, unfortunately, the lives of an estimated 6,000 residents and visitors. This cautionary tale presents the reader with many issues to consider: the mixing of politics with science, stifling bureaucracy, and mistakes made because of humanity’s foibles. Master storyteller Erik Larson effectively weaves the history of late 19th century weather forecasting with Cline’s life and work. The story races to an end you know is coming but compels you to finish.  At the end, you have to ask the question that most likely haunted Isaac Cline for the rest of his life: Could more lives have been saved? As a librarian I would be remiss if I did not also mention author Larson’s use of primary source material from both the National Archives as well as local Texas collections. The first-person accounts give life to the historical facts, as noted by many reviewers. More importantly, Larson found evidence challenging some of the commonly held beliefs of what happened that day and the events leading up to it.

“Micromotives and Macrobehavior” by Thomas Schelling

Paulo Shakarian

Paulo Shakarian

Recommended by Paulo Shakarian, assistant professor, School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering

Have you ever stood in long line at a buffet only to find a much smaller line at the other end of the table? Ever slow down after suffering through a traffic jam just to take a quick glimpse of a car accident? In both cases, people as individuals make relatively small decisions (following the crowd to the longer line; slowing down to look at an accident) that, when performed as a population, lead to unintended outcomes (such as a cold dinner or a traffic jam). Through the sharp lens of economics, Nobel Laureate Thomas Schelling explores this phenomenon in his book, a timeless classic. He ambitiously studies a variety of cases that include everything from voluntary racial segregation to choosing the genes of one’s child, to deterring use of nuclear weapons. Despite being written in the late 1970s, Schelling’s masterpiece reads as if he was considering some of the most pressing issues we see in today’s headlines – and then works to explain the phenomena through the use of mathematical models. Any engineer looking to address societal problems should read this book.  Nearly a decade after first reading it I still find myself reviewing chapters for inspiration.

“Haroun and the Sea of Stories” by Salman Rushdie


Barbara Smith


Recommended by Barbara Smith, assistant professor, School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering

Hold on tight as this book takes you soaring into the adventure of life in real-time. In this beautiful depiction of a young man’s journeys into the world, readers will grow along with the characters as they differentiate dream from reality, formulate who they are, and begin to pave their road ahead. In the end, this fantastical tale highlights that to grow and develop we must continue to redefine ourselves by exploring the unknown – stepping out of our comfort zones and into our own lives. Consider that a plan in the mind never looks the same as it does when it works out in reality. So start walking, and create the path that will become the life you live.

“Eating the Dinosaur” by Chuck Klosterman

Kyle Squires

Kyle Squires

Recommended by Kyle Squires, professor and director, School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy

This book is a series of essays that veer off in unexpected directions and more often than not don’t make an obviously definitive point. One of the essays, for example, is titled “Going Nowhere and Getting There Never.”  But what Klosterman gives you are unusual perspectives regardless of the topic. Whether writing about politics, rock music, sports or movies, he draws interesting connections between various subjects that you likely would never imagine.  His observations, sometimes off the wall, can open your mind to “thinking outside the box.” In general, literature that makes you think of things you don’t normally consider and draw connections between people or issues that don’t seem at all connected is good practice for thinking creatively. That’s part of the essence of engineering — coming up with brand-new solutions to problems that often require connecting seemingly disparate topics and ideas.  Practicing that type of activity is important, healthy and a valuable lesson for engineers.  

Media Contact
Joe Kullman,
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


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Register for Semicon University Day, July 16

Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Career, Opportunities | 0 comments


Download and share the flier.

Semiconductors are the engines that drive the electronics that people use every day: cellphones, computers, personal electronic and more. Billions are sold each year. Discover the industry that manufactures them.

Learn about the microelectronics industry. Connect with industry representatives. Explore career opportunities.

University Day is a special program to introduce students to the world of semiconductor manufacturing.

University Day at SEMICON West 2015
Thursday, July 16, 2015
Moscone Center, 747 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA 94103-3181
Register now at
Enter Priority Code: UNIV15 for free admission (a $150 value –Must show student ID at exposition)

University Day Agenda:
10–10:45 a.m. Opening remarks and keynote
10:45–12:15 p.m. Career panel
12:15–1:30 p.m. Lunch (included)
1:30–4 p.m. Career expo
2–3:45 p.m. SEMICON West tours

Who Should Attend:

  • Seniors approaching graduation
  • Graduate students involved in semiconductor research
  • Undergraduates seeking internships
  • All students exploring career options

SEMICON West Highlights:

  • Free technical programs
  • Semiconductor manufacturing
  • Assembly and test
  • Materials and equipment
  • New technologies
  • Advanced research
  • Special displays
  • Technology pavilions
  • Regional pavilions
  • Innovation village
  • Internet of tomorrow demo

Expected attendance
27,000+ attendees
650+ exhibitors


Semicon University Day Flyer

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