CLARKSTON, Ga.—Sahithya Reddivari understands Arduino — the language of microprocessors. Arduino can make robotic cars run, power weather stations or light up a traffic signal.
The assistant professor of engineering at Georgia State University’s Perimeter College also knows she has a finite period of time to help her students to understand this language — as well as dozens of other concepts they will need as they move through their associate degrees and toward bachelor’s engineering programs at Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State University, Georgia Southern University , Massachusetts Institute of Technology or other engineering schools.
Reddivari’s passion for finding innovative and entertaining ways for students to learn engineering concepts was recognized by her peers during Perimeter College’s 2018 Faculty Development Day, and by her students, who honored her as Faculty Advisor of the Year in April 2019 during the annual Honors Day celebration.
Reddivari was honored by her peers for “Outstanding Junior Faculty.” (The term “Junior” reflects that Reddivari is finishing just her third year as an instructor at Perimeter College, following her 2016 completion of her environmental engineering doctoral program at the University of Michigan.
“My goal as an engineering educator is to prepare students to face a multitude of problems in the engineering world by developing their learning skills and critical thinking skills,” Reddivari said. “I’ve tried to introduce students to industry standards — some examples include 3D printing in engineering, Arduino projects and reverse engineering projects. I want to help students apply classroom concepts to everyday life.”
As an example, she says students in her Statics class are required to snap pictures of structures outside of the classroom (traffic poles, lamp posts, roofing, bridges, etc.) and draw free-body diagrams — which she says is a core concept in engineering statics. (Note: in physics and engineering, a free body diagram is a graphical illustration used to visualize the applied forces, movements, and resulting reactions on a body in a given condition.)
“I enjoy working on experiential learning projects and engaging with students outside of the classroom,” she said, citing her involvement in the construction of a temporary zonodrome structure on campus, as well as running a coding challenge with students.
Her passion also led to the startup and operation of the STEM Lab on the Clarkston Campus. Reddivari is the interim faculty advisor for the Clarkston Computing and Engineering Club (CLACEC) and is advisor for the Women in STEM (WISE) club on the Clarkston Campus.
Connecting with students from all backgrounds is especially important, she said.
“One of the more challenging aspects of being an educator is to be able to cater to the needs of every student,” Reddivari said. “From my own experiences as a student who has worked with minority students — and sometimes being a minority myself — I am conscious of how students can perceive the academic environment differently. Having instructors who are approachable and show interest in mentoring students through the course has always benefitted me, and I look to support my students in a similar manner.”
Students recognize her devotion.
“To me, Dr. Reddivari is a visionary and an exceptional mentor who pushes her students to strive for the best,” said Madina Bah, a computer science student and president of CLACEC. “It was thanks to her encouragement and guidance that I was able to grow as a leader. I have always admired her work ethic and her commitment to helping and supporting students.”