Prabhudev Konana

Carolyn Seepersad, mechanical engineering assistant professor, spoke about the science and innovation of 3-D printing at the second Research Symposium in Welch Hall on Thursday evening.

Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

UT faculty members showcased their research at the Research Symposium hosted by the UT Student Engineering Council in Welch Hall.   

Speakers included business professor Prabhudev Konana, engineering associate professor Carolyn Seepersad, engineering assistant professor Neal Hall and psychology professor Art Markman.

The lecturers talked about the topic they are researching or their specific research findings.  

Konana’s research focuses on global sourcing, or when a business moves the manufacturing of a product based on strategic reasons. 

“Companies then were thinking about cost,” Konana said. “Today they go for capabilities. … That’s the kind of world we are entering in.”

According to Konana, new global sourcing techniques can lead to job loss in America.

“This has huge implications for you,” Konana said. “If you don’t add value, if you don’t innovate, you don’t create something new for the company, in a few years your job will be in India or China somewhere because they are not going to invest in you if you’re not going to create additional value.”

Seepersad said 3-D printing could be the next industrial revolution because of additive manufacturing, or moldless manufacturing that makes products layer by layer. 

“You want to build one part today; you want to change it up a little bit tomorrow — no sweat,” Seepersad said. “There [is no] more cost to building a unique item than there is to building mass manufacturing identical items [with 3-D printing]. “

According to Seepersad, 3-D printing is leading to advances in biological applications. She described research done at Princeton University and Johns Hopkins University, where researchers have 3-D-printed ear cartilage to be used in the future. 

Hall’s collaborative research has led to a directional microphone based on the ears of the Ormia ochracea fly.

“The fly does not have two independent ears; it has this hearing organ which is effectively coupled,” Hall said. “The essence of this hearing structure is that it behaves like a teeter totter. … It’s tuned to detect only minute differences in sound pressure coming from one side … to another.”

The directional microphone hearing aid could be used in a restaurant-type setting in which an individual needs to raise the volume of one person’s voice and not the ambient noise, according to Hall.

Markman said in order to learn something you have to teach it.

“If you want to maximize the quality of your knowledge, you need to get in the habit of explaining things to yourself,” Markman said.  

Once the quality of knowledge is maximized, an individual needs to learn how to use it when they need it, according to Markman. 

“Often, the really difficult solutions to problems lie from another domain of your experience,” Markman said. “When you get stuck solving a problem, all that means is you’re not being reminded of anything.”

Editor's note: This article has been updated from its original version.

Editor’s note: Daily Texan columnist Amil Malik sat down with Prabhudev Konana, chair of the Department of Information, Risk and Operations Management at the McCombs School of Business to ask about how HB 5, a bill that reduces the number of standardized tests, provides new measures to make schools more accountable and gives students more flexibility to focus on technical training through reduced math and science requirements in high school. Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Amil Malik: The co-author of HB 5 [which potentially lowers the academic graduation requirements for Texas high school students by giving them a choice between the traditional path into college and a path directly into the workforce] Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, claims the bill will also make Texas students better prepared for the jobs that Texas employers are struggling to fill. Could giving students more technical-based training in high school improve their chances of getting a job? 

Prabhudev Konana: So we are going to partition that problem into three parts. If you look at the student body, there are the students who are cut out for higher education. They are very determined; they want to get college degrees. They take advanced math, science, so we have no problems with those folks. 

Then there are some students who are just not cut out to do advanced math, science. They have not much interest to go to college. So for them, I need to get into something more hands-on, technical work. I don’t care about advanced algebra or trigonometry. I want to get advanced skills in operating a machine ... so immediately I’m employable after high school. There is no point in trying to tell these students, “No, you need to do these advanced math and AP classes.” The probability of them succeeding is going to be very low. Instead, if you train them ... there are lots and lots of jobs like repairing cars, operating machines with applied material.

But then you have these in between students who have probably the potential to go to college. There is a risk that they may not do very well. But ... with small pushing, they could have gone into college and been very productive, creating higher value-added work than going into, say, maintenance work or technical work. 

But overall, the idea that you gauge high school students, people who don’t want to do advanced degree, towards ... where they are immediately employable is actually not a bad idea. It’s a bad idea when you have those students in between, who with a little bit of encouragement and push could have done a much higher level of work, maybe gravitated towards this easy path. ... The question is whether this particular rule will discourage those people in the in-between to go to the route where they could have been much more valuable elsewhere. That’s the question. I don’t have an answer. 

Malik: What do you see as some of the potential effects of beginning to tailor job-specific education or a job-specific mindset as early as high school?

Konana: That’s why I said we know who these students are who are not going to do very well in advanced math and science ... We can easily make out from their standardized tests — which I don’t like, by the way — but you have an indication about students who are not doing very well in class. You know it in ninth grade. On the other hand, there are students who get commended and get in the nineties in math and suddenly this person says I want to go the technical route — yes, maybe this person’s potential was so high going into college and now we are giving them the option of going the easy route ... Exceptions exist for everything. 

Malik: Why don’t you like standardized tests?

Konana: I come from India, where everything is based on test, test, test. So you don’t get a 100 in math — you got a 99 instead of a 100 in math — there are 20,000 people above you now. So there is this incredible pressure of studying for the exam’s sake. So your creativity, ability to think differently, is all gone. For example, I tell my nephews in India make sure you’re understanding everything you are studying, understand and then write. And my niece tells me — I’m not joking — she said, “Uncle, that’s all in America.” In India, the guy who is grading your exam isn’t a professor. It’s a local language guy who is given a cheat sheet to say this is the answer and they grade. So he will look at how many words are common and he will give you the grade. So if you memorize them, you are likely to get more grade than trying to understand and write. People prepare only for tests, not for learning. Teachers are preparing for the test, not for learning. Does it mean that there should be no standardized tests? No ... but you cannot have standardized tests every year so that the teachers are only worried about preparing you for the test. We didn’t create so many Nobel laureates in this country with standardized tests. So why bring it now? 

... Overall, I like [HB 5]. I like having less testing, giving an option for some of the students to go into areas where they can succeed rather than forcing them to go into advanced math. Of course, I can be very idealistic and say everybody should get a college degree, but then who is going to do your maintenance work? Who is going to operate your machines in applied material? They don’t need a PhD to do that. They just need a two-year college to do it. 

On the other hand, you want to have the critical number of people going to college. Right now I think the number is hovering around 22 or 23 percent who go to college. That number should go up because in the future, you’ll need the talent. If you don’t find the talent, the companies are going to other countries.