Inside Rensselaer
Volume 6, No. 4, March 2, 2012

Photos by Drew Kinum


Exploring Engineering

Annual event introduces elementary students to engineering

In celebration of National Engineers Week, the School of Engineering at Rensselaer hosted 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 explored 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 included 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 were offered, all led by engineering undergraduate and graduate students who are members of engineering professional societies and clubs at Rensselaer. Ruel noted that the program introduces students and their families to diverse college student role models who are pursuing degrees in engineering and computer science, and who also led the activities as a way to engage with the children. 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.

Staffers from the Children’s Museum of Science and Technology (CMOST), Empire State Aerosciences Museum, and the Schenectady Museum and Suits-Bueche Planetarium led pre-program activities. In addition, Angelo Santabarbara, PE, affiliated with the Chazen Companies, spoke to students and their parents about the role of a civil engineer, and some of the projects that the Chazen Companies has worked on in the region.

The overall program was 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.
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 6, Number 4,March 3, 2012
©2012 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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