Let’s Go! Exploring Engineering Day Arrives Feb. 18 at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Area Elementary School Students Roll Up Their Sleeves to Dive into Racing Robots, Clever Computing, Fantastic Fingers, Radical Radiation, Kooky Chemistry, Slime Time, Smart Lighting, and More
February 17, 2012
In celebration of National Engineers Week, the School of Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will host its annual Exploring Engineering Day event on Saturday, Feb. 18. Racing robots, clever computing, radical radiation, material mysteries, logistical LEGOs, smart lighting, slime time, and fantastic water filters are just a few of the engineering activities more than 450 elementary school students and 600 parents will explore as part of the program.
“Exploring Engineering Day activities are designed to spark the interest of young children in engineering and computer science through hands-on exploration,” said Barbara Ruel, director of diversity and women in engineering programs in the School of Engineering and program director for Exploring Engineering Day. “The program also creates an opportunity for us to engage parents with interesting activities while also providing them with step-by-step instructions so that they may continue to work on these activities at home with their children. Over the past 10 years, the program has increased in both size and diversity.”
The program includes children from Girls Inc., Boy and Girl Scouts organizations, local area private and public schools, and home-schooled children. More than 40 percent of the participating students are young girls. Students and their families hail from the Capital Region and surrounding areas, including Warren, Columbia, and Schoharie counties, as well as Arlington, Vt.
Fourteen workshops will be offered, all led by engineering undergraduate and graduate students who are members of engineering professional societies and clubs at Rensselaer. Ruel noted the program introduces students and their families to diverse college student role models who are pursuing degrees in engineering and computer science, and leading the activities as a way to engage with the children.
The student workshops will run from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 1:35 to 3:35 p.m. The program introduction sessions will take place from 9:10 to 9:25 a.m. and 1:10 to 1:25 p.m. in the Darrin Communications Center, room 308. Margaret Ashida, director for the Empire State STEM Learning Network, State University of New York at Albany, will deliver the keynote address for each session.
In addition, parents will have an opportunity to delve into the world of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines by participating in any three of eight parent activities that will be offered. Sample workshops include: exploring chemical reactions, superhydrophobic surfaces, the ultimate raincoat, computer programming with LOGO, and creating a homemade lava lamp.
Staffers from the Children’s Museum of Science and Technology (CMOST), Empire State Aerosciences Museum, and the Schenectady Museum and Suits-Bueche Planetarium will lead pre-program activities. In addition, Angelo L. Santabarbara, PE, affiliated with the Chazen Companies will speak to students and their parents about the role of a civil engineer, and some of the projects that the Chazen Companies has been worked on in the region.
The annual program offers children and their parents an opportunity to participate in a variety of activities, including aeronautical, biomedical, chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical, environmental, and materials engineering.
The overall program is coordinated by the Rensselaer chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), with support from several faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and professional staff in the School of Engineering. Andrea Maret ’12, president of SWE, and a senior majoring in chemical engineering, and Cara Apel ’12, a senior also majoring in chemical engineering, coordinated this year’s event.
Additional Rensselaer groups involved in delivering the sessions include: the National Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers, and Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honor society. Also participating are: Biomedical Engineering Society, Solar Car Racing Team, Computer Science Students, American Nuclear Society student chapter, Materials Advantage, Engineers for a Sustainable World, Institute for Industrial Engineering student chapter, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the Design, Build, Fly student organization. The Center for Initiatives in Pre-College Education (CIPCE) and the Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center will lead sessions as well.
Also, in an effort to provide parents with information about how to encourage and support their children’s curiosity and interest in STEM disciplines, parents will receive online and regional resource information regarding programs offered at Rensselaer and other area organizations, along with tips on academic preparation related to the fields of engineering and computer science. Students will also receive take-home activities.
Exploring Engineering Day is part of the larger effort at Rensselaer to engage young people in science and engineering studies and professions. Other pipeline programs include: Design Your Future Day, to engage young girls in science and engineering studies and professions; Black Family Technology Awareness Day, designed to spur interest in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), and the arts; and the Rensselaer Molecularium project, to teach young children about the smallest forms of matter.