By Rob Dixon, Texas A&M University Graduate and Professional School
“This year's competition was so special in terms of the uniqueness of the research projects, especially as some of them are directly related to this pandemic. My fellow competitors are dedicated scholars whose research will lead to big changes in the world." ---2020-2021 3MT Winner Amin Davoodi
COLLEGE STATION, January 29, 2021 -- A pitch for robot-assisted learning took top honors at this year’s Three Minute Thesis
(3MT®) competition at Texas A&M University on Wednesday.
Amin Davoodi, a doctoral student in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, College of Education and Human Development, won both first prize and People’s Choice for his presentation, “Promoting Educational Equity and Access for Home-Bound Students Using Robot Assisted Learning.”
Davoodi proposed a “telepresence robot,” a remote-controlled device with wheels and a camera whereby a remote user can attend class virtually using an app.
The Texas A&M Graduate and Professional School, along with co-sponsors the Center for Teaching Excellence – English Language Proficiency Program and the University Writing Center, hosted the finals of the Texas A&M University Three Minute Thesis
(3MT®) competition in a hybrid in-person/virtual format with social distancing precautions in place for those on site.
Davoodi was proud of his win, especially given the caliber of his competition. “I am so happy to be the first student from the College of Education and Human Development and the first Iranian student ever to win the 3MT® competition at Texas A&M University,” he said.
Industrial Engineering doctoral student Mahnoosh Sadeghi was named runner-up for “Developing a Smart PTSD Monitoring System,” while Biomedical Sciences doctoral student Marcus Orzabal placed third for “E-Cig Vaping: Don’t Hold Your Breath.”
Five judges from the university campus and greater Bryan-College Station community evaluated presenters based on two criteria: presentation content and the contestant’s ability to convey that content in an engaging and clear way. For first prize and People’s Choice, Davoodi will receive $1000 and $500, respectively. Runner-up Sadeghi earned $500, and third-place finisher Orzabal earned $250.
As this year’s winner, Davoodi will move on to represent Texas A&M at the virtual Conference of Southern Graduate Schools’ 3MT competition in February.
He commended his peers for the high level of research they are conducting and their commitment to tackling the world’s most urgent challenges. “This year's competition was so special in terms of the uniqueness of the research projects, especially as some of them are directly related to this pandemic. My fellow competitors are dedicated scholars whose research will lead to big changes in the world.”
Originally created by the University of Queensland in 2008, the 3MT®competition is simple: graduate students get just three minutes and one slide to present a compelling oration on their research project and its significance before a general audience. The event has garnered worldwide popularity as a vehicle to help students develop their presentation skills and as a venue to showcase student research. Today, over 900 institutions across 85 countries participate in the competition.
This year marked the eighth time Texas A&M has held a 3MT® competition. The presentations were live-streamed to an audience of over 200 people from as far away as Germany, Iran, India and Australia. Audience members were able to cheer on participants and react to presentations using the chat and reaction functions of the streaming platform.
Dr. Karen Butler-Purry, Associate Provost and Dean of the Graduate and Professional School, was pleased with this year’s event format. “I’m glad we were able to have students give their presentations live in front of judges. One of the essential benefits of 3MT® is that presenters have to refine their communication skills to engage a live audience. All of this year’s competitors did that really well. And they showed the outstanding and important work graduate students are doing at Texas A&M,” Butler-Purry said.
Butler-Purry delivered opening remarks, and Assistant Provost and Professor of History Dr. Adam Seipp served as emcee. In between presentations, to give judges time to tally scores, Seipp entertained the audience with trivia, a scavenger hunt and, as one audience member put it, a preponderance of “dad jokes.” Chat comments reflected that the audience enjoyed both the student presentations and the hybrid format was the next best thing to an in-person event.
Dr. Michael de Miranda, Professor and Department Head in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture (TLAC), lauded the work of Davoodi and all the 2020-2021 3MT® competitors. “I could not be more proud of Amin’s accomplishment and how boldly he represented TLAC in the face of some very strong departments and research competition,” de Miranda said.
Davoodi also praised the event itself as a valuable exercise for graduate students and as a way to connect with the world outside academia. “3MT® challenges you to talk about complex research in simple language to a general audience,” he said. “The competition helps students come out of their comfort zones and communicate with a broader audience about their research. No matter how much we present our research in the academic world, we need to reach out to the public, as the main goal of research is to help people benefit from innovation.”
Media Contact: Dr. Morgan Schweller, Graduate and Professional School, 979-845-3631, firstname.lastname@example.org