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Field campaign exposes students to data and decisions research at the interface of engineering and biology

April 19, 2019

Picture of spring break REU students
Visiting undergraduate students conducted drone wind experiments at the Kentland Experimental Aerial Systems laboratory with Virginia Tech researchers. From left to right: Javier-Gonzalez Rocha, Regina Hanlon, Damian Martinez Pineda, Shane Ross, Jean-Michel Fahmi, Donovan Hardy, David Schmale, Bryan Bloomfield, Milan Tisdale, Trent Malone, Arianna Shynett. Photo credit: Peter Means

Drone wind studies, water rescue manikins, and underwater robots tracking a fluorescent dye: these were not scenes from a science fiction movie but research that was part of a recent field campaign led by Virginia Tech investigators Shane Ross and David Schmale.

Ross and Schmale brought six undergraduate students from partnering colleges to Virginia Tech to conduct data and decisions research in March during spring break.

The students came from Morehouse College in Georgia, an all-male historically Black college and university (HBCU), Bennett College in North Carolina, an all-female HBCU, and Hampden Sydney College in Virginia, an all-male college.

“The field campaign was a really valuable experience for the visiting students. They collected data and learned to make decisions from their data. We have submitted grants to continue collaborating with faculty at these three colleges. We hope to bring more undergraduate students to Virginia Tech for summer research experiences in the area of biological transport,” said Schmale, professor in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

On the cold and windy first day of the research campaign, the students participated in drone wind-monitoring experiments at the Kentland Experimental Aerial Systems (KEAS) laboratory located at Virginia Tech’s Kentland Farm agricultural research facility.

“We explained to the students why it is important to measure the weather and wind with drones. With this technology, we have the potential to monitor the spread of plant diseases and even the spread of wildfires with on-the-spot accuracy,” said Ross, professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics in the College of Engineering.

Read the full story on Virginia Tech News