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Grand Challenges Scholar, Spring 2024

Asher Baptista

Asher Baptista has spent his time as a student contemplating how to use technology to tackle the world’s biggest problems. As a Fulton Grand Challenges Scholar, he has been busy studying in an intensive program designed to prepare the next generation of engineers to solve society’s biggest challenges as defined by the National Academy of Engineering.

The central theme of his work has been the Joy of Living.

“The theme is all about trying to make everyday life better as we make progress in technologies that can elevate the human experience,” Baptista says.

One key element of the program is the opportunity to do mentored research with a faculty member in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. Baptista completed a capstone project — a long-term piece of work designed to demonstrate mastery of an important skill — under the supervision of Maria Elena Chavez Echeagaray, an assistant teaching professor of engineering in the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence.

For the project, Baptista worked with a student team to develop Print Tracker, a set of web applications that managed the ticketing system for Fulton School’s 3D Print and Laser Cutter Lab

The lab team members were taking little joy from their struggles to manage incoming print jobs and users were sometimes disappointed when their projects were inadvertently deleted from the queue. Baptista and his team proposed and designed solutions to resolve these issues.

Solving such grand challenges requires a focus on the need for engineering to serve humanity, so Grand Challenges Scholars put an emphasis on demonstrating social consciousness. Baptista joined Engineering Projects in Community Service, or EPICS, and did service work for Foster Arizona. The organization tasked Baptista and fellow students with developing an application that would help foster families and community members share information. 

Baptista’s efforts were also both multidisciplinary and multicultural. He spent seven semesters as a Devils’ Advocate, a tour guide who welcomes prospective students to campus. He notes that he has sometimes been approached by students who said the tour he led played a big role in influencing their decision to enroll at ASU. 

The work has helped him develop abilities that will be helpful in his future career.

“As a tour guide, you learn effective communication on a wide spectrum,” he says. “This includes public speaking to large audiences as well as making meaningful connections in individual interactions.

Baptista further honed these skills while spending the summer abroad in Tokyo as part of an internship with Coto World, an organization that seeks to help people from all over the world live and study in Japan. There he worked on a web-based application called Coto School Finder, designed to connect students with schools that teach Japanese.

The new graduate’s experience as a Grand Challenges Scholar caps a highly successful student experience. Baptista completed the honors program in ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College, and was the recipient of a New American University President’s Scholarship, the Global Education Office Scholarship, the Council on International Educational Exchange Partner Scholarship and the Fulton Global Education Scholarship.

Baptista, who minored in business, hopes to start his own company one day, but emphasizes that he is open to many different versions of the future.

“I believe that aspirations can change,” he says. “Engineering is a mindset that inspires constant curiosity. I thrive on learning how things work and how we can make life better.”

Read about other exceptional graduates of the Fulton Schools’ spring 2024 class here.

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