Engineering Beyond The Classroom
2010 Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings
Technology surrounds us, and technological literacy benefits all members of society -engineers and non-engineers alike. Our understanding of technology influences a wide range of decisions we encounter in our daily lives, from selecting healthcare options to making informed product purchases and dietary choices. At the same time, most people have very few direct, hands-on connections to technology, except as finished consumer goods. This lack of engagement is responsible, at least in part, for
... ocietal shortfalls in technological proficiency. In 2008, through support from the State General Assembly and Department of Education, seven organizations and institutions were awarded funding to develop an afterschool program designed to spark student interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The afterschool setting was targeted with the goal of creating opportunities for middle and high school students to build STEM skills through fun, hands-on activities in a relaxed atmosphere. The partners, which include our University, represent the education continuum from K-12 through higher education, and collectively have developed and implemented standards-based, hands-on, afterschool STEM programs, professional development programs, and STEM-related monitoring and evaluation contracts. For their part, our University faculty applied the principles of problem-based learning in the context of "demystifying magic" to develop a module in which students explore events that appear to have a magical quality. Unlike most illusions, the "tricks" learned through these activities aim not only to mystify, but to demystify as well, as students unravel the STEM behind the sorcery. Phenomena related to surface tension, pressure differentials, buoyancy and the behavior of light are among those explored, and information about engineering applications is included with each activity, as well as resources related to black and female inventors. As a capstone event, students are challenged to stage their own magic show, creating original "tricks" based on what they learned.