Peru Project 2011

Bridge-Building Design Project

Course: 25.107 - Introduction to Engineering I
Instructor: David Kazmer
Partner: GEAR-UP

Partnership Description: GEAR-UP, or Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, is a U.S. Department of Education (DOE) funded grant program aimed at increasing the number of low-income students who attend college, by interventions that raise expectations and provide support for students to succeed. A 6-year math-focused GEAR-UP grant begun this past year targets 7th graders at the Robinson, Sullivan, Rogers, Butler and Stoklosa schools in Lowell and is administered through the UML Center for Family Work and Community (CFWC.) The parent liaison arranged with Dave Kazmer, to invite some of the first-year UML engineering students demonstrate an engineering design project for 7th graders and their parents. The ensuing demonstration turn out of 7th graders along with their parents and UML students, far exceeded the GEAR UP parent liaison’s expectations. The new parent liaison, Leonor Daly, is working with Dave Kazmer to repeat this project for other now 8th grade students in the 2006-07 school year, as not all 600+ students could be reached last year.

Project Description:Bridge-building design project with GEAR-UP 7th graders and their parents. Also in the Introduction to Engineering I class, ten to fifteen UML students volunteered to present and test the design and construction of toothpick bridges, which they had learned earlier in the semester. These UML students presented the bridge building project, then broke into teams of one UML student per one 7th grader and one parent. Together each team designed a bridge out of toothpicks. All of the bridges were then tested to see which were the strongest and how they failed. Time for discussion was included at the end of interaction and focused upon analysis of why the 7th graders thought the failures had occurred, and what were considered the optimal design features. Everyone had such a great time that the UML students came back again and repeated the project with another group of 7th graders and their parents!

Learning objectives met by the S-L project were for students to:

  • Illustrating principles of engineering with Rube—Goldberg devices
  • Practice research and presentation skills
  • Interaction with community partners and clients

Community objectives met by the S-L project:

  • Design interactive displays for the LHNP