Engineering department and student clubs work to make STEM more accessible

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The excitement and curiosity that a science fair inspires is livened every year at the Engineering and Science Festival put on annually by the College of Engineering. The festival is designed to allow younger children to explore the different types of engineering and science in an engaging and exciting way.

“We want to showcase in some way what engineers do,” said Dr. Nick Hudyma, chair of civil engineering. “Part of this is to try to attract students to engineering and science and mathematics.”

Hudyma said that the festival is concentrated on demystifying STEM fields and showing young people that they can be fun and accessible, and not just difficult and specialized.

“We want to bring out some entertainment value to help students learn about these different disciplines,” Hudyma said. “I reach out to our student clubs in civil engineering and we try and develop a vision for what we would like to show to the students.”

The festival will entail different stations that will teach attendees about different concepts in a fun way. The civil engineering department will be creating a bridge-making exercise with popsicle sticks to imitate the life-sized process.

“Anything that revolves around civil engineering or general engineering-oriented education or tutoring, we like to be involved in that and get kids excited about civil engineering and let them know what it [is],” said Cameron Hale, senior civil engineering major and president of Chi Epsilon, a civil engineering honor society.

Hale said that events like these were important for him as a young person in deciding what he wanted to study after high school, and he hopes that students who are interested will find the same inspiration and direction by attending the festival.

“Especially for civil engineering that is such a specialized field, I think it’s huge to be able to tell these kids what it is, tell them about it or also tell them about mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer engineering, to kind of get them excited,” Hale said. “Some kids know what they want to be when they grow up, but some of them don’t, so this is an opportunity to give them more options, and maybe kind of show them another career that maybe they hadn’t considered before.”

The festival will showcase a variety of different fields, and within each field, students and faculty will try to exhibit their field in an easy-to-understand, but still an exciting way.

“You give kids the opportunity to see different things: you never know what they’ll latch onto. They could see some bridge-building and say, ‘Oh, that seems interesting’ or they could see some interesting programming stuff or stuff that we’ve built,” said Dr. Sin Ming Loo, professor of electrical engineering. “This kind of event is popular, because you can see a lot of things at one time, so you don’t have to go to multiple locations.”

Loo has planned an exhibit in which students can interact with a very small computer called Raspberry Pi, and use it to play Minecraft.

“To a lot of kids, Minecraft is a game, but you can actually do programing in Minecraft too. The cool thing about programming in Minecraft is the instant gratification. You do something, and it happens right away. It’s kind of like electronic legos,” Loo said.

The festival will take place around campus on Saturday, Feb. 1, and those interested can register online.

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