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Associate Professor Carolyn Seepersad teaching an undergraduate class.

Associate Professor Carolyn Seepersad teaching an undergraduate class.

Mechanical engineering Associate Professor Carolyn Seepersad at The University of Texas at Austin, has recently been selected by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) as an Outstanding New Mechanical Engineering Educator.

Dr. Seepersad was nominated by Professor Rich Crawford. The nomination was supported by letters from three former Ph.D. students and a post-doc. They include Drs. Peter Backlund (now with Sandia National Lab), Nathan Putnam (now with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Champaign, Illinois), Cassandra Telenko (now a post-doc at MIT and the Singapore University of Technology and Design), and former post-doc David Shahan (now at HRL Laboratories in Malibu, California).

This senior design project utilizing selective laser sintering is a teaching aid that visually explains the gravitational pull of both the earth and its moon.

This senior design project utilizing selective laser sintering is a teaching aid that visually explains the gravitational pull of both the earth and its moon.

Dr. Seepersad was recently promoted to Associate Professor and has worked in the Mechanical Engineering Department for eight years, where her enthusiasm, knowledge and inviting personality have made her an invaluable asset to the department. Colleagues, undergraduates and graduate students are highly appreciative of her work here and "feel lucky to have her" as the nominating students wrote in their opening letter to the selection committee. She is a highly creative, innovative engineer who is described by colleagues as "enthusiastic, organized, efficient, courageous, encouraging and patient." She has consistently scored extremely high marks on student evaluations, even in classes with 50 to 75 students, at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

This senior design project produced with selective laser sintering harvests energy produced by vehicles as they travel over bridges.

This senior design project produced with selective laser sintering harvests energy produced by vehicles as they travel over bridges.

Seepersad teaches the second-to-last core undergraduate course Mechanical Design Methodology where students redesign and engineer an existing product, such as a leaf blower. Students reconstruct the decisions made by the original designers regarding manufacturing, the assembly process, and product architecture. In her graduate level course Design of Complex Engineered Systems students learn statistical techniques for designing and analyzing experiments by using in-class, hands-on learning methodology. In all her courses, she uses a "writing for reflective learning" assignment to encourage students to reflect on their experiences and articulate the lessons learned.

Research Interests & Projects

In addition to her work with mechanical engineering students, she is involved in engineering outreach programs and several research and funded engineering initiatives. She has three main research interest areas. The first is the design of customized mesostructure (honeycomb and lattice structures) for use in many applications where strength and weight must be optimized. In addition, she's developing methods and computational tools for engineering design and using empathetic experiences to help designers better understand product-user interactions with emphasis on assistive use considerations.

This senior design project produced with selective laser sintering is a Rube Goldberg style game. All the gears and moving parts work.

This senior design project produced with selective laser sintering is a Rube Goldberg style game. All the gears and moving parts work.

In 2009 she received the Outstanding Young Researcher Award from the Advanced Manufacturing community. The subsequent ME news story details some of these efforts. She has just been selected by the Longhorn Innovation Fund for Technology (LIFT) to bring 3-D printing to the university in a form of a vending machine. Students will be able to log on to a web portal to upload their files. Using layered manufacturing technology, a MakerBot desktop 3-D printer will build their design inside a glass kiosk as they watch.

Outreach Efforts

This senior design project is the Texas version of the Eiffel Tower. Manufactured using selective laser sintering, this collapsible tower also sports a UT logo.

This senior design project is the Texas version of the Eiffel Tower. Manufactured using selective laser sintering, this collapsible tower also sports a UT logo.

Besides the work teaching current students, she is involved in outreach programs including a program called "Extreme Engineering" that is performed with the Women in Engineering Program (WEP). This is an activity with high school students where they redesign a common household item (an alarm clock) for people with either situational or physical disabilities. Students interact with prototype products using blindfolds, earplugs, and oven mitts to temporarily handicap their senses and dexterity. The ensuing discussion revolves around how engineers create products and technologies that help people and help make people's lives better.

Seepersad has advised over 25 undergraduate researchers and serves as the faculty advisor for the college chapter of Tau Beta Pi (the national engineering honor society) and mentors finalists for the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships, and is on the selection committees for the Hertz Fellowship and the Rhodes Scholarship —honors that she herself earned as a student.

One of the best ways to understand the level of professionalism and excellence Seepersad brings to her work is to read selected portions of letters from her colleagues and students. See the sidebar above.

A woman who never stands still

Because she's so open to new possibilities and seems to possess boundless, positive energy, she is always working on the next thing— be it another way to teach a concept better, another research method, another idea for a project or a way to fund it. The department is honored to have such a forward thinker in our midst, always spurring the same type of thinking in the people around her. Carolyn Seepersad is a professor who will surely leave her mark on engineering education for many years into the future.

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