Almost a year and a half ago, Andrew Dupuis and Xyla Foxlin set out to make engineering more accessible for all with a new YouTube channel, “Beauty and the Bolt.”
Recently, they took their mission to lawmakers in Washington, D.C., for CES on the Hill. The event, hosted by the Consumer Technology Association, brought innovators to Capitol Hill in April to present their ideas to members of Congress.
Case Western Reserve University had two tables at the event, making it the only organization with more than one exhibitor—and the only university in attendance. Fellow engineering student Matt Campagna, cofounder of Reflexion Interactive Technologies, joined Dupuis and Foxlin.
“It was awesome to be somewhere where we were really advocating for our cause and also for Case [Western Reserve],” said Dupuis, a PhD student in biomedical engineering and the producer and videographer of “Beauty and the Bolt.” “The average person going to CES on the Hill—or the person that they’re having meetings with every day—is of a very different demographic than us; they have a very different goal of trying to push their technology.”
Promoting STEM education
But “Beauty and the Bolt,” which is based out of the Larry Sears and Sally Zlotnick Sears think[box], aims to engage people of all ages and backgrounds with engineering through video tutorials of tools and STEM concepts. Past videos have demonstrated skills like how to solder, use a laser cutter and operate a miter saw, and covered basics like how electricity works and types of drill bits.
Ultimately, Dupuis and Foxlin, the host and producer of the series, hope to show that anyone can be an engineer and that, as their tagline states, “brilliant is beautiful.”
“We both had seen how much you can do when you have even just the basic skills and access to the resources,” said Dupuis. “It was something we were very passionate about: giving other people skills so they could start making on their own.”
At CES on the Hill, Dupuis and Foxlin hoped to demonstrate the need for STEM education.
“It was very well-received, and it was confidence-inspiring to see people interested—to see that we’re not going down the wrong path,” Dupuis said.
Forging connections for a cause
Dupuis’ experience at CES on the Hill demonstrated to him the power of being passionate about a cause and building connections with key people to gain support.
The power of those types of connections also was evident to Dupuis while an undergraduate student at Case Western Reserve. As president of the Residence Hall Association, Dupuis helped usher impactful measures through the university’s administration. He was involved in the push for gender-inclusive housing on campus and the Thwing Center ballroom renovation.
“I got to see that when you have people who care about something, and you have the right connections to move it forward, you can do a lot of really amazing stuff,” said Dupuis.
Making an impact through engineering
Also as an undergraduate, Dupuis became involved with the Interactive Commons, a team tasked with exploring academic innovation and home to the university’s efforts in working with the Microsoft HoloLens.
“Being a part of the team that’s working on what we consider the future of medical education is awesome,” said Dupuis. “We were in National Geographic magazine a couple of months ago, and it’s cool to see projects and arts and code that you worked on in magazines like that.”
Dupuis has a natural inclination toward science and engineering, but it was after working with Interactive Commons Director Mark Griswold that he developed a strong interest in medical imaging. Now, as a PhD student, Dupuis works in Griswold’s imaging research lab.
Through his work in the lab, Dupuis hopes to help find a way to use MRI technology to make better-informed medical decisions and reduce the need for exploratory surgeries and biopsies.
“It’s great to work with a lab that’s focused on making MRI faster, more accessible, cheaper and more accurate,” said Dupuis. “Those are all things we need right now in medicine.”
Inspired to start developing your own engineering skills? Check out “Beauty and the Bolt.” But first, read on to see how Dupuis answered our five questions.
1. What’s your favorite place to grab a bite to eat in Cleveland?
There’s a place on Lee [Road] called Zoma Ethiopian—it’s authentic Ethiopian food and it’s incredible. It’s a small place; the owners cook, and the food’s just absolutely amazing. Plus, it’s vegetarian.
The other place is somewhere that almost no one at Case [Western Reserve] knows about: Dante in Tremont. Dante is an awesome restaurant, but—and this is the part I care about—on certain weeknights at 9 p.m., they turn into a $6 ramen place. So it goes from like a $150 restaurant to a $6 ramen place.
2. Where would you like to travel that you’ve never been to?
I’ve always wanted to go to Los Angeles—not because I want to go see the stars and everything, but more because I want to go on the backlot tours and see all of the production equipment and all that goes into making movies. Xyla and I are actually hoping to go this summer to VidCon, which is the YouTube conference there. Hopefully, we’ll get to see all of that—and also meet with other people from the YouTube community.
3. What is your biggest goal for 2018?
My goal is to find a way to balance the things I have passion for with the day-to-day realities of actually getting your work done. I’ve always been kind of a “ready-aim-fire” person. I’m good at ideating, but executing the day-to-day things that need to get done to turn those ideas into reality—that’s not my strength. I’m learning it in the PhD program: How do you take this really cool research idea and actually do all the steps to make it a reality?
The same goes for our nonprofit [“Beauty and the Bolt”]. Now that we’re registered as a nonprofit, how do we find funding? How do we actually start hiring people to help us with this? I think a big part of that is me figuring out how I balance the passion I have with the reality. That’s the strength I don’t have yet.
4. If you had to pick another field to work in or study, what would it be?
Probably videography. I would have loved to have been a photographer. The other one that almost popped out was high-ropes course management —I worked on them for a few years, and absolutely loved it.
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
My favorite thing about Case [Western Reserve] is the collaborative atmosphere. You have the opportunity to work with people who are at the head of their fields, and they want to work with you and they want to take their fields and move them forward.
I was on projects that crossed four or five different departments. Strategic planning included people who you would never even think to include, just because that’s what makes us strong as an institution. There are still silos to break down, but a lot of the benefit of Case [Western Reserve] is that you can send an email to anyone and they’ll have coffee with you.