Phineas Bates – STEM Field Trip (2.11.2022)

Last Friday (February 11th) we had our first STEM field trip of the Winter/Spring semester. This time, we had a virtual field trip with two classes (~34 students) at the Phineas Bates Elementary School. This is our 5th consecutive year working with Ms. Hughes’ 4th graders – and was a blast, as usual. The 2.5 hour field trip was focused on engineering and the design process. Unlike prior virtual field trips which took place in one main zoom call, we split this call into two distinct breakout rooms, with each room being one physical classroom and led by different NU volunteers (Room 1 = Sam, Gabby, Lauryn, Room 2 = Nick, Hadeel, Karen).

The field trip started off with our introduction to engineering and the design process, followed up with a discussion as to what skills an engineer needs – the ones we highlighted were creativity and perseverance! Next, students participated in our What Is This Thing activity, a guessing game – to determine what kinds of things a mechanical engineer might design and why. Next, we became civil engineers and designed, built, redesigned, and rebuilt the tallest possible towers made entirely out of paper (just 1 sheet) and tape (just six inches). Some really cool designs, including one I’ve never seen before (2nd from right) with a very aesthetically pleasing four-way base design. Also a cool spire on one tower (1st from left) – led to segway discussion in my room about aesthetics – i.e. making things that look good or different. By the way, the city of Boston has some interesting buildings itself – take a look at the Stata Center at MIT (which looks crazy) or the Boston City Hall (an excellent example of brutalism architecture style).

The tallest design of the day was by fourth grader Caleb, whose tower stood 27 inches tall! Took quite some time to balance just right, but it stood for the full required 30 seconds!

Next, students again used the engineering design process – this time re-designing an existing product – the school backpack! Each group was tasked with redesigning a backpack to be more Covid-appropriate, and groups came up with some very interesting (and sometimes quite exotic) ideas, as outlined below!

Finally, we wrapped up with College/STEM 101 – wherein the fourth graders asked the college students questions. At the end, we asked our volunteers for advice for the fourth grade students – I really liked Hadeel’s answer – that it’s okay to make mistakes!

Thank you to Ms. Hughes and the other fourth grade teachers at the Bates and the Northeastern student volunteers for making this event possible! Excited to see y’all next year, when we can be in person again!

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