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Abreu and Mai Receive Salute to Service Scholarship

College of engineering undergraduates Gabriel Abreu, a Mechanical Engineering major, and Xuyen Mai, of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, have been selected to share one of the Salute to Service Student Scholarships, which will be recognized on November 20 during a special awards event at the Boston Harbor Hotel as hosted by the UMass Amherst Alumni Association. “The Salute to Service Scholarship promotes the participation and success of students in extending their skill and talent through contributions toward the greater good of society,” explains the Alumni Association. “With this fund, UMass Amherst’s emphasis on public service and commitment to positive and productive change will continue to propel our students forward.” Abreu and Mai were nominated for carrying out an extensive e-textile outreach program for 37 eighth-graders from the Rumney Marsh Academy in Revere, teaching them how to make their own smart e-textiles.

E-textiles, short for electronic textiles, are fabrics that enable computing, digital components, and electronics to be embedded in them. “The kids seemed to have a lot of fun,” said Mai. “The teacher even said she loved it when we were there because they were so much more relaxed and quiet and focused on their projects. It was really awesome seeing kids working on their projects and having fun with them.”

The e-textile outreach program was supported by a $20,000 grant from Google, received by the Diversity Programs Office.

Part of the development of wearable technology, e-textiles are known as intelligent clothing or smart clothing because they allow for the incorporation of built-in technological elements in everyday textiles and clothes. Electronic textiles do not strictly encompass wearable computing because emphasis is placed on the seamless integration between the fabric and the electronic elements, such as conductive thread or paint, microcontrollers, sensors, and actuators.

“Our primary goal is to get kids interested in the field of engineering,” said Mai about the program. “We do so by introducing them to what engineering is through our personal experience with the field and hands-on, age-appropriate engineering projects.”

Proceeds from the Alumni Association’s gala November 20 awards event will benefit the Salute to Service Scholarship Fund, being established to honor and support the talents and aspirations of select students in pursuing and realizing their public service and civic engagement goals.

As the Salute to Service webpage explained, “UMass Amherst has a distinguished history of educating for civic engagement and preparing committed and engaged graduates who are ready to change our world. Through outreach, the university extends the resources of this campus to individuals and groups within the Commonwealth and beyond, and enlists this institution in helping solve society’s pressing problems. Our programs have been recognized nationally – by President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll every year since 2006 and by the Princeton Review’s ‘Colleges with a Conscience: 81 Great Schools with Outstanding Community Involvement.’ We’ve also been named a ‘community-engaged university’ by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement for Teaching.” (November 2013)