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A University of North Texas engineering student will be part of an exciting day at the Texas State Capitol in Austin. Robert Presley Smith, a senior who is studying mechanical and energy engineering, has been selected to take part in the Texas Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol.
Smith, grew up in Somerville, Texas, near College Station. He is currently part of UNT’s Honors College and McNair Scholars Program. He credits the McNair program with giving him the ability to dig into deep research earlier than expected and in turn open up opportunities like Texas Undergraduate Research Day.
“My perspective was that research was for grad students,” said Smith. “I didn’t know undergraduate research was an option until I got into McNair. There is a good chance that my current work will be published and, without McNair, that wouldn’t happen.”
Smith is currently researching how to create electricity by using temperature difference. He uses the sun’s rays to create heat on the top of a device. The warmth then goes down to the cool bottom surface of the device and the heat released creates power. He will present this work at the Texas National McNair Scholars Research Conference, which will be held Feb. 17-18 at UNT, and then again at the Texas Undergraduate Research Day in Austin March 28. He is only one of 75 students to participate in Texas Undergraduate Research Day event, which allows students to show off their work, tour the Capitol and observe their respective legislators.
“I’m not a traditional student,” Smith said. “I’m older than many of my peers, but I knew I had to come back and finish my degree. The time I took off prepared me for the research I’m doing now.”
Smith is a first generation college student who is set to graduate in May and then plans to pursue a master’s degree here at UNT. He eventually wants to get a doctoral degree and aspires to work at a national research laboratory.