Three ECSU students claim top awards at McNair Research Symposium and Awards Ceremony

Three ECSU students claim top awards at McNair Research Symposium and Awards Ceremony

Kesha Williams
July 05, 2011


Three ECSU students claimed first place awards at the 16th Sixteenth Annual McNair Research Symposium and Awards Luncheon Ceremony.

Husni Agri, a senior majoring in engineering technology from Highpoint, N.C., and Valerie Edwards, an aviation science major from Whiteville, N.C., won first place for the oral presentation of their research project, "Navigating Programmed Mobile Robots through a Maze." Their mentor was Dr. Moayed Daneshyari, an assistant professor in the Technology Department.  

Alicia Riddick, a pharmaceutical science major from Ahoski won first place for in the poster presentation category for her project, "Synthesis of 4'-Epimer of 2-Fluoronoraristeromycin." Her mentor was Dr. Tesfaye Serbessa, an assistant professor in the Chemistry, Geology & Physics Department.

Nineteen students participated in an intense, five-week, summer research institute where they were paired with ECSU faculty mentors in their research areas or their academic majors. The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program is funded by the Department of Education. That agency covers the cost of the McNair Scholars Summer Research Institute, supplies for projects and field trips all designed to prepare students for graduate and professional schools. Named for the late NASA astronaut and physicist, the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program is designed to prepare students for graduate and professional schools.

Edwards said her robotics project proved a challenge for her and Agri, her research partner, because they'd never worked with robots.

"Our goal was to program a robot to navigate through a maze and that is just what we did. It took a great deal of responsibility, perseverance, and determination to accomplish what we did. We had to learn the basics about robotics and programming before we could even get started," Edwards said.

"We had to use RealTerm software to program the robot and Teamviewer software to control the robot remotely. We were up for a good challenge and this one was definitely a good opportunity. I believe that this particular type of research opportunity should be presented to all incoming freshmen, as well."

Agri credited their mentor, Dr. Daneshyari, with steering them to relevant research and sharing helpful resources. Agri said he and Edwards spent hours reading journal articles and books and research from Internet resources. Ultimately, their robot was programmed to weave through a cardboard maze of obstacles and return to its starting point.

It was the second time Agri, a native of Sudan, had participated in the research symposium awards program. He learned English as a high school student and admits he is still "working on it." He was delighted to win the oral presentation category of the competition.

"I was so surprised we won," he said. "I came here as a refugee from Sudan and recently earned my citizenship. ECSU gave me a family-like environment, where people were concerned about my well being and my education.  I really saw myself grow over the last five weeks."

Agri also praised the McNair program. "Not only do they help us with research, but they take us to historic sites and graduate schools.  This kind of research program can help students get the edge over other students who are applying to graduate school."

 The Ronald E. McNair History & Life Center was one of a number of sites the program participants visited during summer research institute.  Other sites included the University of South Carolina-Columbia, University of South Carolina )-Charleston (Medical Complex) Charleston Historic District and Gullah region.  The students also enjoyed some great low country cuisine.

For Dr. Cheryl Lewis, director of the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, this summer research institute has proven to be an important tool in preparing students for graduate education. It also introduces them to the process of having research published and prepares them to present research findings at professional and/or student conferences.  During this Institute, students' top priority was to engage in research and produce their final projects in various formats (written and poster) and present their timely topic at the Sixteenth Annual McNair Research Symposium and Awards Luncheon Ceremony.  She, Mrs. Gwen Cooper and Mr. Orestes Gooden presented second and third place awards to the remaining participants.

The keynote speaker for the Sixteenth Annual McNair Research Symposium and Awards Luncheon Ceremony was Dr. Nathaniel Williams, president and CEO of Human Works Affiliates, Inc., a cluster of none corporations focused on human services. Williams also conducts workshops and training sessions related to stress management, time management, ethics, conflict avoidance, resolution and customer service and loyalty. He is a talk show host and the author of six books including "The Navigator of Life." Williams earned three masters degrees from Lincoln University, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania and Strayer University. He holds a doctorate degree from Fielding Graduate University.