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College of the Ozarks hosts annual Celebration of Student Scholarship, Research, and Creative Work

Senior engineering cohort class displays dune buggy they built throughout the semester.

POINT LOOKOUT, MO. — College of the Ozarks hosted its annual Celebration of Student Scholarship, Research, and Creative Work on May 9, at The Keeter Center. Featuring projects from 12 areas of study, select departments held an awards ceremony, recognizing students for their academic excellence and personal achievement.

Students with various majors presented personal research accumulated throughout their college careers. Departments that participated included the following: animal science, biology, business, chemistry, computer science, engineering, English, health science, horticulture, music, nursing, and physical education. There were 205 students who gave presentations at the celebration.

Local and regional businesses participate in Celebration of Scholarship

The purpose of the Celebration of Scholarship is to highlight the research and projects completed by College of the Ozarks students over the past year. It is designed for both internal and external audiences and held at The Keeter Center to provide easy access to those from off campus. The chemistry department started with student poster presentations over 30 years ago. Then, biology joined, along with the gradual participation of other departments. In 2021, the College hosted the first ever Celebration of Student Research event with the Computer Science Senior Project Showcase.

Many industry professionals, called “industry partners,” provide real-world feedback and form relationships with the professors and students during this event. Some are alumni of the program, others are I.T. professionals who work for organizations and hire students for internships and full-time employment.

This year, nearly 20 companies attended, including JB Hunt, American National Insurance, Big Cedar, Classy llama, FedEx, ZeroSum, ShadowDragon, Fig Tree Books and More, CNH Industrial Reman, Forvis, and O’Reilly Auto Parts.

Andy Jensen, senior advisor for Operations Systems at FedEx Freight, served for a third year as an industry partner.

“It’s cool to see the innovation and what they choose to work on,” Jensen said of the student participants. “For some of them, it’s clear they grouped together and helped each other. Others worked on something they thought was interesting and attacked it. It’s cool to see the different ways that people approach the same task.”

This year, Dr. Luke Carlson, associate professor of music theory and composition, and Brian Hofmann, senior software engineer at Netsmart, hosted the first ever keynote session for Celebration of Student Scholarship. They shared their collaborative project, Rameau (ram-o). Rameau (ram-o) is a web application that automatically grades custom-designed coursework.

“Rameau (ram-o) was presented for the first time remotely in May 2020 as Brian Hofmann’s computer science capstone project,” said Cheri Kembell, associate professor of computer science and director of the event. “It has always been my dream that one day a student capstone project would make it into the marketplace, and it has come true.”

Eleven students participated in this year’s Computer Science Project Showcase, presenting their senior capstone projects for peers, professors, and industry partners.

“The capstone project requirements, schedules, and outcomes differ for each academic discipline, but their common goals are to assess students, enhance their research abilities, improve written and oral communication, and foster a deeper passion and comprehension of their field of study,” Kembell said. “Computer science students identify a problem and then design and build a solution utilizing technology in 15 weeks. When they present at the Celebration of Scholarship, they demonstrate their completed application to an audience.”

Industry partners listen to the presentations and provide honest, technical feedback to the students. They also ask questions that are designed to challenge the presenter’s ability to explain the technical aspects of their project.

Future engineers showcase design principles, solve real-world problems

The entire senior engineering class worked to construct a dune buggy for their senior project. The project was split into four teams, project manager, frame, powertrain, and suspension. Each presented a poster on their aspect of the project. Celebration of Scholarship is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their understanding of engineering principles while solving real-world design problems.

“Working on this project has been a challenge. To take an idea, turn it into a design, and then physically create it is an extensive process, one that many of us had never experienced before,” said Carver Boldman, senior engineering major. “That being said, I have learned so much from this capstone project! While the buggy may not have reached the stage we wished, the development and growth my cohort experienced as a team was worth every late night of work.”

“Presenting allows students an opportunity to highlight and justify the key aspects of their projects, which is something that will be regularly required of them in industry,” said Jeffery Otey, professor of engineering. “Having to confidently provide the rationale for design choices is a vital skill to develop and practice. Students need to view questions from others as sincere interest and a desire to seek understanding about the project.”

The engineering capstone project taught students to communicate technical details professionally and effectively.

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