Inside Rensselaer
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Focus on:
Exploring Engineering Day


In celebration of National Engineers Week, the School of Engineering at Rensselaer hosted its annual Exploring Engineering Day event on Feb. 20. Falling eggs, candy neurons, ice cream in a bag, gumdrop bridges, and polymer slime are just a few of the engineering activities that more than 280 elementary school students and their parents explored as part of the program.

“Exploring Engineering Day activities are designed to spark young children’s interest in science and technology and to help them learn what engineers do,” said Barbara Ruel, director of Diversity and Women in Engineering Programs in the School of Engineering and program director for Exploring Engineering Day. “Over the past nine years, the program has increased in both size and diversity from 125 Boy and Girl Scouts in 2001 to nearly 300 children from local Scout Councils, and a variety of community groups that serve children.”
 
Students came from the Capital Region, Warren County, Columbia County, and Schoharie County in New York, as well as Vermont. The program offered 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 Rensselaer’s Society of Women Engineers (SWE) organization. This year, SWE members Rachel Ferebee, a junior majoring in materials engineering and Andie Maret, a sophomore majoring in chemical engineering, led the planning for the event, with support from several faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and professional staff in the School of Engineering. Additional Rensselaer groups involved in delivering the sessions included members from the National Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers, and Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honor society, as well as Melissa Hershey ’05 from the Center for Initiatives in Pre-College Education (CIPCE).

The program featured nine workshops. Sample highlights included: “Egg-citing Egg Drop,” where participants used ordinary household supplies to create a device to keep an egg from cracking; “How Fast Are You,” during which students used candy to demonstrate their understanding of neurons; “Gumdrop Bridges,” where students played the role of a civil engineer and built and tested bridges made of gum drop candy and toothpicks; and “Making Ice Cream in a Bag,” during which participants learned about the properties related to melting temperature and engineering applications. Other programs offered were Cultivating Crystals, Electromagnetism, and Molecularium: A Magical Musical Adventure into the World of Atoms and Molecules.

In an effort to provide parents with information about how to encourage and support their children’s curiosity and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), a one-hour panel presentation featured Rensselaer students and faculty, along with Margaret Ashida, project director for the Empire State STEM Education Initiative.

Students also left with take-home activities and parents collected information regarding STEM projects and programs being offered at Rensselaer and at other area organizations. In addition, Ilene Frank, director of public program/education at the Schenectady Museum and Suits-Bueche Planetarium, was also on hand with information about STEM-related programs open to the public.

This year, parents and their children also participated in a new workshop titled “Uncovering the Secrets of Lighting,” which helped participants to learn and see the surprising ways that light is used in our lives through a series of hands-on experiments and demonstrations. The program was led by Ken Connor, professor in the department of electrical, computer, and systems engineering.

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Inside Rensselaer, Strategic Communications and External Relations
1000 Troy Building, 110 Eighth Street, Troy, N.Y. 12180 or to leibat@rpi.edu.
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 4, March 5, 2010
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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