Academies Students Told of Adventures in Engineering

Students at the Academies of Science last week learned about the adventures a career in engineering can bring, during a Nifty Fifty lecture by Eric Berkenpas, the co-founder of Second Star Robotics.

The lunchtime program was offered by the USA Science and Engineer Festival, which will be held April 25-26 at the DC Convention Center. Program organizers are making speakers available throughout the region to promote interest in STEM pursuits. 

“Fundamentally, engineering starts with the problem and then it might be a machine that solves the problem, it might be a process, it might be something you buy off Amazon.com, but it is an engineer who applies those principles and then figures out how to solve that problem,” he said. 

During his 15-year career, Berkenpas’ problem-solving engineering efforts have taken him from aircraft carriers, where he worked on a new mechanism to slow landing plans; to the oceans, where he helped develop a “critter cam” to attach to humpback whales; and to King Tut’s tomb in Egypt and the El Castillo pyramid in the Yucatan, where he helped develop a ground-penetrating radar system to look for hidden chambers. After leaving his post as senior director of the Exploration Technology Lab at the National Geographic Society, he started a Richmond-based company that is developing drones to aid undersea exploration and devices to provide more information about the life-rich deep scattering layer of the ocean.

Eric Berkenpas, co-founder of a Richmond robotics company, addresses students at the Academies of Science about his wide-ranging experiences as part of a program offered by the USA Science and Engineer Festival.

“I’ve always been interested in robots. I think I built a robot when I was a sophomore in high school for a science fair project,” Berkenpas said in response to a student’s question. He said he went on to pursue electrical engineering and earned a master’s degree in bio-sensors. 

But robotics remained his passion. 

“Robotics is kind of like all the things in engineering put into one,” he said.

Students attending the lecture were provide the opportunity to attend the festival in April, which will feature more than 1,000 hands-on activities and performances by science celebrities and experts—including Berkenpas. There also will be a Festival Expo open to kids for free. The Festival kicks off April 23 with the X-STEM Extreme STEM Symposium, a “TED-style” event for youth featuring interactive presentations and workshops by STEM visionaries.

For more information on the festival and to purchase tickets, go to usasciencefestival.org.

One thought on “Academies Students Told of Adventures in Engineering

  • 2020-03-11 at 7:25 am
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    “Students attending the lecture were provide the opportunity to attend the festival in April, which will feature more than 1,000 hands-on activities…”

    Over 1000 hands-on activities at a national conference next month? Hopefully LCPS will not let any of these students attend .

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