Tag Archives: STEAM

Headshot of Dr. Raghunath Kanakala Dr. Raghunath Kanakala Appointed Richland College Executive Dean for Engineering and Technology

Richland College has named Raghunath Kanakala to the position of executive dean of its School of Engineering and Technology. Kanakala’s appointment was approved by the Dallas County Community College District Board of Trustees Dec. 4, and he will assume this role in early 2019.

Kanakala currently serves as dean of technical education at Aiken Technical College in South Carolina. While there, Kanakala has overseen 12 technical education program areas, including industrial maintenance, welding, HVAC, CNC, graphics, electrical technology, radiation protection, tower, nuclear fundamentals, pre-engineering, physics and chemistry.

Prior to his current role at Aiken Technical College, Kanakala was an assistant professor in the University of Idaho – Idaho Falls College of Engineering, a research scientist and lecturer for the Inamori School of Engineering at Alfred University in New York and a graduate research and teaching assistant in the Colleges of Engineering at the University of Nevada Reno and the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

His academic leadership has included management of a $2.5 million Individuals Safety Training to Achieve Climber Credentials grant to train and place low-skilled workers, Trade Adjustment Assistance-certified workers and others in high-demand jobs in the tower industry and to reduce fatalities in the industry. He also holds a U.S. Patent in “combustion synthesis method and boron-containing materials produced therefrom,” and has developed curriculum, published 16 articles in industry journals and delivered numerous conference presentations.

At Richland College, Kanakala will provide academic leadership for the School of Engineering and Technology, which offers programs in computer information technology, computer science, cyber security, engineering, engineering technology (advanced manufacturing and electronics technology), interactive simulation and game technology, multimedia, networking/authorized training (Amazon Web Services, Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle, UNIX), photography/imaging, PC support and semiconductor manufacturing technology.

The Richland College School of Engineering and Technology also supports the Technology, Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing Center, a learning space for relevant, hands-on experience and career-focused training with leading edge, industry-quality technology for engineering and manufacturing students.

Upon entering his new role, Kanakala hopes to advance Richland College’s student success initiatives, faculty development and community partnerships, particularly regarding apprenticeships, internships, curriculum development and articulation agreements.

“I would like to increase the awareness about engineering transfer degrees,” Kanakala said. “Also, I would like to work on improving the apprenticeship models for different programs.”

“Dr. Kanakala brings proven leadership experience in engineering and technology education, and I am very excited to welcome him to Richland College as our new executive dean,” said Shannon Cunningham, Richland College executive vice president for academic affairs and student success. “I know he will continue to advance the mission, vision and strategic direction for our School of Engineering and Technology as we continue to deliver programs that meet industry demand and promote student success.”

Kanakala holds a Ph.D. and a Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Nevada Reno. He also earned a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Nevada Las Vegas and a Bachelor of Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the Gandhi Institute of Technology and Management.


Girls Inc. “Eureka!” campers pose with Richland College speech communication faculty member Sherry Dean during the 2017 camp. Richland College and Girls Inc. Empower and Prepare Young Women for College and S.T.E.M. Careers at ‘Eureka!’ Summer Camp

For the fifth year in a row, Richland College is partnering with Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas, a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold, to host the first half of a four-week summer camp for young women focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers. The camp begins June 4 is one portion of the Girls Inc. “Eureka!” model program.

This year’s camp is comprised of a new cohort of campers entering 8th grade who have committed to the “Eureka!” program through their senior year of high school.

The Girls Inc. “Eureka!” program exposes girls to opportunities and experiences where they can see themselves as important parts of the STEM workforce of the future. While at Richland College, the girls will participate in STEM and arts sessions, including robotics, programming, clay art, printmaking, dance and digital literacy.

“The focus of the camp is to expose the girls to engineering topics and lab experiences designed to encourage them to choose careers in STEM fields,” said Simona Farcasiu, Richland College electronics faculty member and lead faculty for the Richland College portion of the camp. “Through exposure to a group of female role models from both industry and Richland College, we hope these girls will feel inspired to break through barriers.”

During the digital literacy session, the campers will learn about online searches, online scams, cyberbullying, safe online talk, how to present oneself online and more, with the goal being to provide the girls with necessary tools to keep themselves safe and conduct themselves appropriately in an increasingly digital world.

Along with STEM career awareness, college awareness is another important part of “Eureka!”. Not only does the program initiate the campers’ exposure to STEM fields, but while at Richland College it gives them a feel for college life as they interact with college students, faculty and staff.

“This joint camp with Girls Inc. is an excellent way to empower young women to pursue careers in STEM fields, while also allowing us to share the wonderful opportunities Richland College has to offer and the value of a higher education,” said Shannon Cunningham, executive vice president of academic affairs and student success at Richland College.

“Richland College is an integral partner for the Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas ‘Eureka!’ program,” said Erin Chupka, vice president of program services for Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas. “During the two weeks Girls Inc. girls spend at the Richland campus, they have the opportunity to participate in STEM workshops with dedicated and engaging Richland faculty and are exposed to life on a college campus. Richland does an exceptional job with our young girls, and they leave excited about college and career opportunities in STEM. As each group of girls move through the five-year program, the ‘Girls Inc. Experience’ equips them to navigate gender, economic and social barriers and to grow into healthy, educated and independent women. We are grateful for the support of our incredible partners like Richland in helping to change the face of STEM and improve economic mobility for our girls and their families.”

Richland College’s portion of the camp is sponsored in part by a $15,000 grant from State Farm. Upon completing their two weeks of camp at Richland College, the girls will be hosted for one week each at the University of North Texas at Dallas and Cedar Valley College.

The girls participating in the “Eureka!” program will spend their first two summers being exposed to higher education and STEM careers at Richland College and other nearby colleges before spending their third summer in externships that will provide more focused hands-on learning in several STEM career areas. Year four will be about college and career preparation, during which campers will receive assistance on how to navigate the college application process, from studying for standardized tests to writing admissions essays and applying for financial aid. In their final summer in the program, taking place prior to the start of their senior year of high school, the young women will each be placed into a paid internship in a STEM industry in which they have expressed interest.

In conjunction with the summer camp component of “Eureka!”, all cohorts meet approximately once per month throughout the school year to participate in STEM-related field trips, workshops, career panels and more.

Richland College offers a variety of STEM-related programs, including both traditional two-year degree programs and workforce-ready certificates designed for immediate employment, through its School of Mathematics, Science and Health Professions and the School of Engineering and Technology. Richland College’s science building, Sabine Hall, features cutting-edge science labs and equipment and is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum-certified building for its minimal impact to the environment and eco-friendly design. Richland College also houses the Technology, Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing Center, a space fully equipped with up-to-date, industry-quality technology that allows engineering and manufacturing students to gain relevant, hands-on experience and career-focused training.

Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas serves a diverse population of 1,000 girls, ages 6 to 18, in the greater Dallas area. The organization focuses on the development of the whole girl through a combination of long-lasting mentoring relationships, a pro-girl environment and research-based programming that equips girls to lead fulfilling and productive lives, break the cycle of poverty and become role models in their communities.


Richland College and Girls Inc. Prepare Middle and High School Girls for College and S.T.E.A.M. Careers at Annual Summer Camp
Campers standing in a group.

Girls Inc. campers pose in Sabine Hall on the Richland College campus. Photograph by Paul Knudsen.

For the third year in a row, Richland College is partnering with Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas, a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold, to host the first portion of a four-week summer camp for girls in grades 8-12.

While the camp originally started for middle schoolers, it was expanded to allow girls the opportunity to return for up to five years to continue their educational journey and to encourage college and career awareness among young women.

The Girls Inc. “Eureka!” camp empowers campers to see themselves as an important part of the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) workforce of the future. Richland College is hosting the first week, June 13-17, which focuses on “Chemistry: Properties of Water” each morning and “Art: Developing Spatial Reasoning through Geometric Nets” each afternoon. After collecting water samples from the lakes, water fountains and laboratories at Richland College, the girls are employing chemistry techniques to reveal unique qualities of water. In the afternoons, the girls are investigating various geometric nets and their forms through lecture and experimentation. After developing their unique nets, the girls will attach them together to create a non-representational sculpture focusing on design form, space and light.

“We are delighted to partner again with Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas and State Farm in Girls Inc. “Eureka!” at Richland College,” said Sherry Dean, Ph.D., Richland College professor of speech communication. “Two cohorts of 8th and 9th grade girls will participate in a fun and challenging week of STEAM activities at Richland. The girls will use math, chemistry and biology concepts to learn about the unique properties of water; they will code and create personalized webpages; they will learn to manage wisely personal digital spaces; they will contribute to an art installation related to the sex trafficking of minors in Dallas; and they will participate in Zumba and hip hop dance classes. Each of these activities aligns with the mission of Girls Inc. of Dallas to develop smart, strong and bold young women preparing for successful futures.”

Upon completing their first week of camp at Richland College, the girls will go to the University of Texas at Dallas, followed by the University of North Texas at Dallas. The camp concludes at Cedar Valley College.

The camp is sponsored in part by SAP Labs, ExxonMobil, Lockheed Martin, Program for Excellence and a grant from State Farm that is specifically funding the first week of camp at Richland College.


First week of Girls Inc. camp at Richland gives girls inspiration, opportunities in STEAM fields

Girls to experience more learning, campus life at UT Dallas during second week

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Twenty middle school girls explored science, technology, mathematics, arts and engineering (STEAM) concepts and discovered the joy of learning this week at Richland College.

These Dallas-area 8th grade girls were selected to participate in Girls Inc. SMART Summer College Camp, a two-week learning experience designed by Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas, Richland College and The University of Texas at Dallas – Science and Engineering Education Center (SEEC).

The first week of camp, held June 16-20 at Richland College, focused on “Water: Ubiquitous and Unique.” The girls learned about the various properties of Earth’s most important resource in the contexts of sustainability and ecology. The curriculum included experiential learning activities in the sciences as well as in 3-D art, learning strategies and college readiness skills. Each afternoon, the girls experienced the physics and fun behind the hula hoop.

Sherry Dean, Richland College speech communication professor and Girls Inc. board member, says the week was an amazing success.

“We saw the girls grow a lot,” Dr. Dean says. “It was a very intense learning community. This week sets the stage for thinking routines and helping the girls see connections. The girls created ePortfolios to showcase their experiences. They will be able to look back on this week and realize how they’ve become stronger, smarter and bolder.”

Dr. Dean said another important goal was achieved — introducing the girls to a pathway more and more students take to pursue higher education: the community college experience. Richland has some 20,000 credit students and offers Richland Collegiate High School (RCHS), a dual-credit charter high school.

“We planted important seeds for them,” she says. “The girls really enjoyed being on the campus and we introduced them to RCHS. They were excited to consider options. I believe we had a positive influence on their aspirational goals for higher education.”

Next week, June 22-27, the girls will experience campus life at UT Dallas, living in dorm suites, finding out what it takes to apply for college and participating in learning activities in bioengineering, nanotechnology, forensic science, robotics and space science.

At UT Dallas, the girls also will have the opportunity to connect with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals from the university and Dallas’ business community. Evenings will be filled with fun activities such as karaoke, Zumba and movies. The week culminates with a field trip to Texas Instruments.

Expanding the horizons of the young women selected to participate is a significant goal of the camp, says Lori Palmer, CEO of Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas.

“Girls Inc. SMART Summer College Camp will awaken the potential in middle school girls as they explore the life of a full-time college student and discover opportunities in STEM fields,” Ms. Palmer says. “We encourage girls to explore STEM fields because research demonstrates that women employed in STEM careers earn an average of 33 percent more than those employed in other fields.”

Bernine Khan, UT Dallas’ SEEC director, says UT Dallas is thrilled to host week two of the camp because while the university is distinguished for its strength in STEM education and research, females make up only about 43 percent of the student body.

“Females, in general, represent a hugely untapped resource of potential STEM professionals in our nation, and when compounded with low socio-economic and cultural issues, the pathway to a successful STEM career is stymied,” Dr. Khan says. “The program introduces these girls to the flavors of STEM careers through interactions with female STEM professionals. If the girls ultimately choose a non-STEM field, it will be an informed choice with the full knowledge that their intrinsic ability had no bearing on their decision.”

Learn more about Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas at www.girlsincdallas.org, Richland College at www.richlandcollege.edu and The University of Texas at Dallas at www.utdallas.edu.