Yesterday, on March 22nd, the fifth graders (40 students) from the Chittick Elementary School had a virtual STEM field trip with us, with their teachers Tanya Haney and Courtney Brady. This is the 7th year the Chittick has come since 2012 -> always a joy to have y’all here! Thank you to NU students Zandria, Gabby, and Tasha for helping out today!
Today we learned all about engineering and the engineering design process (EDP) and taking a closer look at Mechanical and Civil Engineering. The day started off with an introduction to EDP, learning that engineers solve problems and that engineers specialize in a certain field to solve certain kinds of problems. When asking the students what skills an engineer needs -> the students came up with two very important skills (that don’t often get mentioned when I ask this question): 1. Having/Making a Plan -> beyond just a step in the EDP, having the skills to formulate and work through and update on the fly a plan – this is very important as an engineer. 2. Working as a Team -> this is a hard skill to learn and students of all ages (and even full-fledged engineers) struggle to work together as a team.
After a look at the different fields of engineering, students became mechanical engineers and participated in the What Is This Thing engineering guessing game – looking at objects and determining what to name it and what purpose it serves. Activity handouts here.
Next – students became civil engineers and designed paper towers to be as tall as possible -> using 1 piece of 8.5″x11″ paper and 6″ of tape. Towers needed to be freestanding and stand for 30 seconds – which was a struggle. Turns out getting a tower to be 1 foot tall is pretty easy, but the higher you go the more difficult it is to balance and keep the tower standing. Had many groups who built their towers horizontally and when placed vertically would not hold their own weight or stay balanced. Finally, one of the girls mentioned her improved tower being “pretty” -> which led into a discussion on aesthetics -> i.e. making your engineering designs look good.
We then wrapped up the day with another mechanical engineering design activity: improving an existing backpack design and making it Covid friendly (or unfriendly -> hard to describe), i.e. a backpack you’d want to have during a pandemic. Students worked by themselves for this activity and we then pulled together a list of items we’d want our final Covid backpack to have.
Thank you to all teachers and Northeastern students for making this field trip possible. Excited to have the Chittick come back next year – hopefully in person! -Nick