Energizing students with engineering
Kasson-Mantorville Elementary School students were experimenting with marshmallow catapults, spaghetti bridges and rockets as part of the fifth annual Engineering Day on Jan. 19.
“Our purpose of engineering day is to create excitement for engineering, make authentic connections between STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) principles and real world problems and foster partnerships with community careers and trades,” said K-M Elementary Principal Ariana Wright.
Kindergarteners participated in a STEM class that focused on push/pull mechanisms. First-graders had a presentation from Quarry Hill Nature Center in Rochester that focused on the connection between geology and engineering. Second-graders explored the Camp Invention (a summer camp taught at K-M) curriculum, making bottle rockets explode. The third- and fourth-graders attended sessions led by Benchmark Electronics engineers. Each student was given two tickets, which could be used to attend two sessions of their choosing.
The sessions included packaging/egg drop, sound/strings, spaghetti bridges, electricity basics, paper airplane assembly, float the boat, air rockets and marshmallow catapults.
“Another benefit is that we are fostering partnerships with our community, specifically in careers and trades. We want to create those connections early on,” Wright said. “Our kids come to us with this creativity that has no boundaries and we want to continue to master that open-minded thinking and promote the growth-mindset, thinking that we can always grow and learn.”
Tom Trihey, a Benchmark Electronics engineer, is the program’s coordinator and says the day is all about creating positive memories for the students and potentially sparking interests that will be pursued when they get older. “We are trying to get them excited about math and science and spark some areas of interest that maybe will drive a career or study choice for them,” he said. “It is getting their hands dirty and trying it out. What better way to learn about engineering than to bring a bunch of engineers to hang out for a day.”
Trihey added that the day is not only enjoyable for the kids, but the engineers who get to try something different for a day. “This is an enrichment activity. It builds on what the teachers are already doing. We are not school teachers, we do this stuff for a living so it adds a new dimension of working with kids to it and give us more appreciation for the teachers who do this everyday," he said.
Wright says her hope for the day is that students get excited about what engineers do as well as technical, creative and critical thinking careers. “The connection that they are building with adults in our community. Just seeing that there are other adult mentors who are there to help them learn and grow,” she said.
Trihey’s hope for the day is that it can help create positive memories for the students. “I remember some things that I did in grade school, sometimes activities like this will stick in their mind well into their adult life and we want to make sure that those memories are positive,” he said.