April 15, 2012

Students Show Skills to Youth at Science and Engineering Fair

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Tau Beta Pi, the engineering college’s honor society, hosted its second annual Science and Engineering Fair Saturday to educate students and community members and display their work.

Several engineering student groups prepared exhibits to showcase at the event, with stations ranging from providing silly putty ingredients to featuring the work clubs have done to prepare for engineering competitions.

Lance Collins, dean of the College of Engineering, brought his sixth-grade daughter, Ashley, to the fair, which he said was “fantastic.”

“I think it’s important to expose middle school students to everything possible about science and math,” Collins said.

Sam Odle ’13, a member of the ChemE Car Team, showed participants the chemical science behind the cars that ChemE builds for its competitions. Odle said that it was “cool to see all the kids who hadn’t really decided what they wanted to do in college” and show them different fields of engineering.

“The younger kids were amazed that [a] liquid [could change] color,” he said. “A lot of the older kids had questions about chemicals and technology.”

Additionally, Odle said, the fair allowed Cornell engineers to teach the students about important research that takes place at the University.

“Most of the professors in the school are doing research with companies people know, and the research they’re doing is going to be stuff we will see in our lives in the next 10 years,” he said. “It’s important for people to see what’s going on here and how they can get involved.”

Students from the American Society of Environmental Engineers boasted compost bins and samples of hydrilla — an invasive plant species recently found in Cayuga Lake.

Tanapong Jiarathanakul ’14, a member of the society, said that although people’s initial reaction to the compost bins included asking, “Is this a bunch of dirt?”, people were “much more understanding” after hearing about the environmental damage hydrilla can cause.

“Hydrilla looks like weeds, but when we explain what it is they took interest,” Jiarathanakul said. “I’m glad that I was able to educate people on this particular topic that’s really relevant to Cornell.”

Jiarathanakul added that the fair was a good way for Cornell engineers to show prospective students a sample of its engineering program.

“I feel like the fair was really helpful for pre-frosh because it gives you a really good perspective on the program,” he said. “I think that if I came to this fair before I came to Cornell, then it would [have been] much more helpful in finding out what Cornell has to offer.”

Students from Cornell’s chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers also presented at the fair this year, sharing information on their concrete canoe team, which builds and races a 20-foot canoe made of concrete against other schools every year.

“You have to make it really really strong, but so it doesn’t sink,” said Hannah Kiem ’13, a member of the team. “It’s very fun.”

For Kiem, the fair was a “really good opportunity to get our name out there in terms of our project teams and to show people what we’re capable of doing.”

“We had a lot of pre-frosh look at things, which was really valuable to us, because they might end up joining our team next year,” she said.

Kiem echoed the sentiments of other students who presented their work at the fair, saying the event was a chance to encourage young scientists to take an interest in engineering.

“The importance comes with providing outreach and education to the community … even when [students] are very young,” she said. “We try to do activities to facilitate [them] learning and having fun at the same time.”

Michael Dezube ’12, vice president of Tau Beta Pi, said that although organizing the fair required a lot of time, the success of the event made the work worthwhile. He added that the fair was a great way for Tau Beta Pi to help promote interest in the field of engineering.

Original Author: Tina Ahmadi