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Six SMSU Students Participate in Posters at St. Paul Event

Published Tuesday, March 05, 2024

President Kumara Jayasuriya with Madi Foutz in St. Paul
President Kumara Jayasuriya with Madi Foutz in St. Paul

ST. PAUL — It was a whole new setting for a group of student researchers from Southwest Minnesota State University.

“It was pretty cool. You went in, and we were in the middle of the rotunda,” said Madi Foutz, an environmental science student at SMSU.

Foutz was one of six SMSU students who presented research projects at the Minnesota Capitol building last week. The annual “Posters at St. Paul” event brought together undergraduate students from across the Minnesota State system of colleges and universities.

“It was another way to put ourselves out there and refine our presenting skills,” said Ble Michela N’Guessan, a computer science student at SMSU.

On Feb. 28, about 30 different research projects held poster presentations in the Capitol rotunda. Students from SMSU were selected for Posters at St. Paul after presenting at the university’s fall undergraduate research conference.

The research projects presented by SMSU students covered a range of different topics and academic disciplines. Samuel Lund examined the controversy between farmers’ right to repair machinery and companies’ intellectual property rights. Addy Wolbaum’s research looked at the policy implications of an increase in missing and murdered Indigenous women in Minnesota.

Foutz presented research on the effects of the 2021 Marshall fire in Boulder County, Colorado.

“I wanted to see how the fire affected different soil properties,” Foutz said. While fires do have beneficial effects for the environment, wildfires are also becoming more frequent and intense, she said. “I was looking at how severe this fire was.”

Over the summer, Foutz collected soil samples from an area that had been burned by the Marshall fire, as well as soil from an unburned area a mile away. She then tested the samples to compare properties like their acidity, microbial activity and the amount of organic matter in the soil.

“The main takeaway was that the unburned soil was doing better,” Foutz said.

Foutz’s research on the Marshall fire was part of her senior capstone project at SMSU.

The fourth SMSU research project at the Capitol was a group project by computer science students Frederick Fermin, Ble Michela N’Guessan, and Franklin Roa. The three students developed CalBuddy, a mobile app that can help college students keep track of everything from classes to campus events.

“As students, we know it’s hard to manage time and know what’s going on on campus,” N’Guessan said.

CalBuddy – short for “Calendar Buddy” – lets users fill out a questionnaire to select types of events they may be interested in. The app then reminds users when events are coming up.

N’Guessan said the group also found a way for their app to work with the online learning program used by Minnesota State. That means students could also get alerts related to their college courses.

“It was a big learning opportunity,” N’Guessan said. The CalBuddy project went beyond just writing computer code. The students also reached out to SMSU’s campus IT department and online learning platform D2L to see if it would be possible to integrate their app with existing programs.

“We decided this meant something, so we went all the way,” N’Guessan said of the project. N’Guessan, Fermin and Roa believe CalBuddy has potential, and they hope to be able to keep working on it in the future.

Students met a wide variety of people in St. Paul, including the Minnesota State Chancellor, SMSU President Kumara Jayasuriya, and visiting school groups.

“I think there was a relatively big crowd for the time of day,” N’Guessan said.

“There were a bunch of different people visiting that day,” Foutz said.

Foutz and N’Guessan said the variety of people visiting the rotunda meant that they needed to be able to get their ideas across to audiences who might not already have backgrounds in computers or environmental science.

“I learned a lot” about presentation skills, N’Guessan said. She got some good feedback from being part of Posters at St. Paul.

Besides presenting their own research, SMSU students also got a chance to see presentations from other colleges and universities.

“It was nice to go see what other people were working on,” N’Guessan said.

“I think it’s a rewarding experience. It’s also unique,” Foutz said of being part of Posters at St. Paul. “It’s nice to see that what I’m doing here is paying off.”

This article by Deb Gau was published in the Marshall Independent on March 5, 2024.

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