Today we had another STEM field trip (our 12th of the academic year!); this time we (virtually) visited the 6th grade class (~55 students) at the Joyce Kilmer K-8 School. This field trip was organized by Fernando Clevez, teacher at the Kilmer and a long-time science fair judge!
Topic this week was Engineering Design Process (Paper Towers + College/STEM 101). The day was led by NU Volunteers Lauryn and Sam, with additional help by Chris, Karen, Samantha, and Maya. Thanks volunteers!
During the introductory presentation, we asked students what skills they think an engineer needs. Responses included creativity, a willingness to make mistakes and not get discouraged (super important, see below!), determination, open-mindedness, creativity, and innovation. A student also answered (and this is a common answer at other field trips), that “they [Engineers] need to be smart”, which I feel isn’t true. Yes, engineers need background knowledge and skills (math, science, etc), but these can be acquired with hard work and determination: I think the two most important factors/qualities and engineer needs are creativity and perseverance. The quote by Edison (at right) is particularly relevant: when things don’t work [and as an engineer, this happens a lot] (such as some of the paper towers today), it’s important to not give up and keep trying!
Another interesting thing that came up today was a tower built by Carmen (top left in image above). Her tower was short, but in her own words, “was designed around aesthetics.” Aesthetics (i.e. the “prettiness” of something) is an important thing to consider when designing things. As an engineer, you are typically designing a product that will be sold (be it a table, a building you’re designing for a client, a robot, etc), so ensuring people find your product attractive and want to buy it is important. Towers are a part of civil engineering, which meshes with architecture to design and build structures – there’s a whole science behind aesthetics and how to make your structureites are the Shard and the Flatiron Building). If you’re looking for a weird building closer to home, take a trip to the Stata Center at MIT (32 Vassar St. in Cambridge) [at right].