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CENI Newsletter — September 2021

September 2021 Newsletter

September 2021 Newsletter

Happy Fall everyone!

Weather has cooled and activity has heated up. This month we are appreciating the energy of Virginia Tech’s outreach champions and wishing continued momentum for all. 


Lisa McNair 
Director, CENI
Professor, Engineering Education

Introducing the Campus Engagement Network

Leaning into CENI’s motto - Inspire, Connect, Impact, the CENI Advisory Board will be called the “Campus Engagement Network'' to emphasize the value of making connections across Virginia Tech faculty and staff leading educational outreach and engagement with the wider community. Beginning in October, the newsletter will be featuring members of the Campus Engagement Network! The Campus Engagement Network will continue meeting the first Thursday of the month from 10-11 am, with Zoom and in-person options.

Virginia Tech Science Festival

September 27 - November 19, 2021 

  • Small group (20-60 people) campus field trips and 
  • Teleconferenced meetups between scientists and learners.


Saturday, November 6, 2021

  • Six stellar presentations will be presented in the Moss Arts Center Cube and live-streamed via YouTube in 360. 

Exhibitors wanted for online meetups, in-person lab tours, and in-person expos. Exhibit applications are due September 30. 

Schools and other learner groups are invited to participate in meetups and field trips. Learner applications are due September 30. 

For more information, visit the Virginia Tech Science Festival website or contact Phyllis Newbill at

 Caption: Adult man and young girl holding up hands to greet robot with arms outstretched at the 2019 Virginia Tech Science Festival.
Caption: Adult man and a young girl holding up hands to greet robot with arms outstretched at the 2019 Virginia Tech Science Festival.

ICAT Roger and Debbie West Student SEAD Grants

The Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology will award five student grants for the 2021-2022 academic year for $1,000 each. ICAT invites applicants for projects that leverage the combined strengths of science, engineering, art, and design to tackle real-world challenges. These funds can be used to pursue a range of transdisciplinary activities that are creativity-fueled and human-centric. Teams must be composed of at least two students, from at least two different colleges, and one team member must represent arts and/or design. If two team members are from the same college they must be from different departments within that college. Applications are due October 8 and full information can be found at

John E. Dooley Student Engagement Grant

VT Engage: The Center for Leadership and Service Learning is excited to request proposals from students for the 2020-21 John E. Dooley Student Engagement Grant. This grant is made possible by the generosity of many donors, and funds highly motivated students or student teams planning to implement community-based civic engagement projects. This year there is a total of $1,500 available (one $1500 grant or two, $750 grants) with an application deadline of October 10 at 11:59pm. Recipients of the grant will be notified in mid-October and projects should be completed by April 9, 2021. Details and related proposal forms can be found at:

ICAT Playdates

ICAT playdates are being offered in-person and virtually this fall. The schedule includes educational innovations, advances like the VRViewfinder, and a virtual watershed project. 

At the September 10 CENI Playdate — Girls Launch! A Pandemic Response to Providing Female Scientist Role Models to Children, Carrie Kroehler, Vanessa Diaz, Abby Lewis, Jenny Appiah-Kubi, Khanh To, and Amber Wendler shared how female scientists served as role models for kindergarten children during the pandemic. 

At the September 17 CHCI Playdate – VR Viewfinder, Sang Won Lee, Zach Duer, and Myounghoon Jeon shared the process of developing a physical apparatus, VRviewfinder, a trackable tablet device - to incorporate bystanders into the virtual reality environment through a tablet screen.

Pictured left to right: Phyllis Newbill, Zach Duer, Myounghoon Jeon, and Sang Won Lee.

Office of Undergraduate Research Advisory Board and Faculty Grant Program

Thank you to Phyllis Newbill for completing a 4-year term of service to the Office of Undergraduate Research Advisory Board. Chelsea Lyles will be joining the board to represent CENI and ICAT. The OUR Advisory Board helps advance the mission of Virginia Tech by promoting, enhancing, and expanding undergraduate research opportunities. The Undergraduate Research Faculty Grant Program will provide a handful of grants of up to $10,000 to individual faculty, teams of faculty, or departments, to facilitate the development or support of novel programs that aim to scale and increase access to undergraduate research opportunities for VT students. Applications are due October 1.

CENI and CENI Partners in the News

  • Four new museum exhibits in Roanoke’s Science Museum of Western Virginia showcase Virginia Tech research
    • Read more in Virginia Tech news 
    • View the WSLS story
  • Sanket Deshmukh receives NSF CAREER award to study and design hybrid materials with aid of AI - read
  • Pathways 2021-2022 Grant recipients announced - read
  • Idea - Building up S.T.E.A.M - listen to Mary Bruce Clemons sharing the impact of Roanoke STEAM Day on kids in the community
  • Student organization is ‘Closing the Gap’ through civil discussion on controversial topics (featuring CENI's Haseb Alim, our undergraduate student Outreach Assistant) - read

CENI Educator Liaison Corner

Floyd County Public Schools

Hokie BugFest is an annual event hosted by the Virginia Tech Department of Entomology, Virginia Tech College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, Virginia Cooperative Extension's 4-H program, and the department's student-run professional organization, the W. B. Alwood Entomological Society. All third and fourth grade classes in Floyd County Public Schools were greeted with many creepy, crawly, and even cute insects during the Hokie BugFest Traveling Field Trips. Principals, staff, and students were overjoyed to have outreach opportunities happening again in our schools. Don’t miss the free, S.A.F.E. (Supporting Autism Friendly Environments) virtual event on October 2, 2021!

Montgomery County Public Schools

Now hiring a STEM Specialist/University Liaison.

Radford City Public Schools

Virginia Tech Civil and Environmental Engineering graduate student Joseph James sets  up the VR lab at Radford High School. Funded through Radford's Advancing Computer Science Education grant and connected through CENI liaison Jamie Little, James developed a VR platform that addresses computer science Standards of Learning as well as career connections for high school students.

James will begin later this month training teachers on operating the system.

Science Museum of Western Virginia

The Science Museum of Western Virginia currently houses seven exhibits highlighting Virginia Tech faculty and student research on the museum floor. These exhibits were recently featured in the Virginia Tech News and on local news station WSLS.

Roanoke Center at Virginia Tech

Roanoke STEAM Day is slated for Oct 29th. The backbone of the new website is in place and we continue to seek exhibitors and new partners in the Roanoke Region.  We are planning on once again hosting a few live webinar events and are seeking schools to provide an onsite experience that will be broadcast live to other participants. We are excited that the Hokie BugFest will be one of our new exhibitors/partners. The exhibitor link is now live at

Del. Hala Ayala, Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, and state Sen. John Edwards recently toured the Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab at the Virginia Tech Roanoke Center. The experiential STEM-learning program is available to middle school students in the Roanoke region. The legislators were in Roanoke as part of a roundtable meeting on the need to invest in STEM education. Panelists, who also included first lady Pam Northam, Del. Sam Rasoul, and local community and education leaders, spoke on the need to train more health care workers in rural communities in Southwest Virginia.

The Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab, which opened in 2019, immerses students in a day of STEM. Hands-on activities combine lessons in technology and creativity. Along with exploring careers, students use colorful craft materials and Arduino microcontrollers, breadboards, servos, and LEDs to come up with and build an Internet of Things-inspired invention.

CENI is now on Instagram! Follow us @ceni_vt

Upcoming Events and Deadlines

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