On Friday, October 1st, we had our second field trip of the year – a “reverse” field trip (RFT) – where instead of students coming to us, we went to visit a school. We’ve done similar RFTs in the past, but it’s been awhile (last RFT in November 2017). For this field trip, we visited the fourth grade classrooms at the Grew Elementary School in Hyde Park (Boston), MA: Ms. Andrews and Ms. Dorsainvil-Johnson’s classes. This was in fact our fourth field trip with Ms. Andrews! This was our first in-person field trip with a school since Winter 2019 (only virtual field trips since then) – going out and seeing students was wonderful!
For today’s activities, we focused on the Engineering Design Process (EDP) and what it means to be an engineer. Engineers solve problems (and use the EDP to do so)! And today, we solved two kinds of problems. Our first problem was a mechanical engineering problem: designing a catapult (using popsicle sticks, rubber bands, and a spoon) to be accurate and precise -> repeatedly hitting a target and scoring as many points as possible. The target: me! 1 point for arms and legs, 3 for torso, 5 for the head. Each group built an initial design, tested it, improved it, and then tested a second time.
Having done this activity many times, it’s much harder than it sounds, and most groups score 0 or 1 point. Today was no different, however, we did have two groups score well: one group scored 5 points and one scored 7. Therefore, the key takeaway from this activity was this: perseverance (which actually was one of their vocab words this month!). Things go wrong or don’t work in engineering (and in life in general) all the time – and not giving up and trying again and improving their designs is a critical skill to have as an engineer (and in general!).
Afterwards, students became aerospace engineers and solved a rocketry problem: building rockets out of paper to fly as far into the sky as possible. The key design parameters: length of the rocket body and the size, shape, position of, and number of fins. We then went in front of the school and tested the rockets, shooting them high into the sky (the highest rockets went over 100 feet up). We lost two rockets onto the roof of the school unfortunately, but those shall life on in infamy!
Coming back inside, we wrapped up with a STEM 101 Panel – in which the fourth graders asked the student volunteers questions about anything – they mostly asked about middle and high school as well as what college is like.
Thank you to the student volunteers for coming out with me today: Maya, Brendan, and Abigail! Also thanks Claire (STEM Director) for coming as well, always nice to have you there!