Once a year, engineers and scientists all over the world go out into the community to inspire and educate the public about engineering, showing them how exciting it can be!
When I was teaching at the university, our engineer engineering department would go out into the community (usually at a huge outdoor plaza) and set up some of our incredible student projects to excite the local kids and inspire them to want to become engineers. (Most kids still think an engineer is the person who drives a train, instead of someone who designs machines like airplanes, cars, bridges… things like that.)
One time, as a demo for the public, Cal Poly set up their in-progress gigantic Human Powered Helicopter. Here’s a video of a test flight:
And here’s a video of the actual winner (not Cal Poly!) who created a design that flew and won the competition:
Okay, so how can you share engineering with your kids and students? When I was a university instructor, one of the hardest things to teach was innovation and creativity. One way that I did this is with Odyssey of the Mind activities. Here are three of them you can do with your kids. Normally, kids are only given 8-10 minutes per activity, however you can do these activities as long as your kids are interested and excited about completing each challenge. Offer prizes if you feel that would add value to the challenge as well!
Given: Ten popsicle sticks, 3 pipe cleaners, a ball of clay, 3 clothespins and a 12-inch piece of tape.
Challenge: Build a bridge that will extend over a 8.5″ x 11″ (or 9″ x 12″) piece of blue paper. Using match box cars, kids get 20 points for every car that is supported by the bridge. They also get 1-10 points for team work and 1-20 points for the creativity of the bridge structure (but these last two types of points apply only if it holds at least one car).
Given: Two paper plates, 20 toothpicks, 5 drinking straws, 2 plastic forks, 10 paper clips, marbles, 1 foot masking tape and poster clay.
Challenge: Suspend or elevate a paper plate above a table and put marbles on the plate without having them fall off. Students have 3 minutes think time when the team is allowed to talk, then 5 minutes to construct and finally 2 minutes to put marbles on. Note that there is no talking during the last two parts, but other communication is allowed. (If this is really hard for your kids, you can allow them to communicate through all three parts.)
Given: Five paper clips, 5 straws, 20 wooden sticks, 2 10-inch pieces of tape, 6 rubber bands, a paper cup, pennies and a bowl of water large enough to float your structure.
Challenge: Build a raft that will float. The raft hold the paper cup while putting pennies in as weights, and each weight is worth 10 points. The problem is finished if the raft falls apart or could not float. Students have 2 minutes to think and 3 minutes to build the structure.
If you’d like a more in-depth project to do with your kids, here are some of our most popular on our website:
You can learn more about National Engineers Week here!