On Thursday, April 1st, the Peaslee Elementary School in Northborough came to a virtual field trip with the Center for STEM Education, organized by/with CPS Associate Director for Licensure Jennifer Madonna. Sixty-five fourth grade students came for a day to learn about engineering and the design process. NU Volunteer Francheska led, whilst Tyree, Madisyn, Lauryn, Hadeel, and Sakura assisted throughout the field trip.
Students participated in three different activities, as described below.
First, students participated in our What Is This Thing? Activity -> to which I created a new, visual answer key, to really show how these items are used (can be found here). I also finally got around to re-numbering the numbers (which were originally from the longer-version of this activity) to go in the correct order as well on the pictures handout.
Next, students built towers out of paper to go as high as possible – many cool and interesting designs!
Thirdly, students participated in our new “Backpack Re-Design” activity, in which students need to re-design backpacks to be more “Covid”-proof – i.e. a backpack that works well in a pandemic. Design ideas included things like robotic arms, cleaning wipe dispensers, no-touch waterbottles, and solar panels to power everything. Some example designs can be found below.
Lastly, students participated in our STEM/College 101 panel. Some interesting questions that came up are below, with my answers (although note that during the field trip, the questions were answered by our volunteers, not me).
-“How big is your school/how many buildings”
I had to look this one up. Northeastern University has 27,000 students – one of the largest universities (student-wise) in Boston. Northeastern actually has multiple campuses, some in other states, such as Charlotte, NC and Seattle, WA. The Boston campus is 73 acres and has just under 100 buildings! My favorite building on campus is Kariotis Hall – because the classrooms are all really weird shapes!
-“As a bioengineer, how do you bring back extinct animals?”
That’s a great question. Also raises an ethical question – should we bring back extinct animals? The answer to both questions is complex – for example, actually bringing back the animals can be done via backbreeding, cloning, or genetic engineering. Here’s an interesting article about it by ScienceMag.
-“Do you start learning about what you want when you are in high school?”
Mostly high school is still about laying the foundations in science, writing, math, etc. However, many high schools offer electives, classes which you choose about topics you are interested in. College has a bit of the opposite going on – in that most of your classes are what you want to learn, but you have certain required classes, such as writing or language courses (although some colleges wave language requirements for Engineers – mine did).
-“How is the food?”
Northeastern has a lot of dining options – there’s three dining halls and tons of food options on campus, with restaurants everywhere. I personally am still sad that the Boloccos and Taco Bell aren’t around anymore, but my recent favorite restaurant near campus is Sprout – a salad place.
-“If you had a week to do anything what would you do?”
All the volunteers answered similarly -> sleep/rest! Seems everyone is overworked and ready to be done. This semester, Northeastern didn’t have a spring break (they started later in January instead) and the students definitely miss it.