7/31/13 Exploring engineering careers at camp

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Science Camp
Hawfields Middle School Student Kyle Miller (right) shows off his “green slime” hand to demonstrate how polymers are made with Woodlawn Middle School student Courtney Keeler (left) holding up a slime container and Southern Middle School student Sarah Kate Schuhler (center) looking on.

Photos by Karen Carter/Mebane Enterprise
Hawfields Middle School Student Kyle Miller (right) shows off his “green slime” hand to demonstrate how polymers are made with Woodlawn Middle School student Courtney Keeler (left) holding up a slime container and Southern Middle School student Sarah Kate Schuhler (center) looking on.

Exploring engineering careers at camp
By Karen Carter, Enterprise Editor The Mebane Enterprise 7/31/13  
Reprinted with permission.

Courtney Keeler and Malik Tuck Jones demonstrate how electricity flows through batteries.  
Courtney Keeler and Malik Tuck Jones demonstrate how electricity flows through batteries.  

A partnership between North Carolina State University, the National Science Foundation and the Alamance-Burlington Schools allowed sixth through eighth graders last week to gain first-hand knowledge about renewable energy and how it is applied in the real world.

Sarah Kate Schuhler of Southern Middle School learns how silicon chips work in phones.

Kyle Miller of Hawfields Middle School and Courtney Keeler of Woodlawn Middle School experiment with “green slime” to show how polymers are made.

Sixteen middle school students in the Alamance-Burlington Schools presented demonstrations last week at the Alamance-Burlington Career and Technical Education Center to demonstrate how energy works.

They completed a number of solar lab activities from science camp including working with sun print paper, beads, solar robots, and wind turbines.

For the students’ art project, they used fabric, gel glue and paint to make a batik art piece, which represents circuit design.

According to Dr. Grable, the batik process helps students understand the layering of silicon, gold, and acids that take place in silicon chip design and also the silicon layers for solar panels.

Melaine Rickard, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) teacher at Turrentine Middle School served as the lead teacher for the public schools for the camp. Dr. Lisa Grable from the North Carolina State University FREEDM Systems Center was the coordinator of the program. (FREEDM stands for Future, Renewable, Electrical, Energy, Delivery and Management System Center.)

The 10-year federal grant with the National Science Foundation is in partnership with the large engineering research center at North Carolina State University. Rickard said the Alamance-Burlington Schools is the only school system in the state of North Carolina in partnership with the National Science Foundation and NCSU.

“I work at the science house, the pre-college STEM Center for the College of Sciences,” said Dr. Grable. “We’ve had previous successful grants working with teachers, and when this grant came up, we thought of ABSS. The cooperation is very good.”

Dr. Grable said it was also important for NCSU to have connections with counties outside the Raleigh-Durham area for the middle school students in a county like
Alamance County to have opportunities to gain college readiness and grow their skills in engineering.
The experience for teachers is rewarding too.

Rickard has participated in a FREEDM project, a research experience for teachers with a five-week summer program.

In addition to the middle school camp, FREEDM offers programs at the high school level for “young scholars”.

Another FREEDM project called Expert Classroom Visitor Program allows electrical engineering graduate students to visit Alamance-Burlington classrooms to bring hands-on activities to learning. Dr. Grable said that several hundred children participate in this program.

  Tre Thompson from Woodlawn Middle School and Matthew Wright from Southern Middle School present a demonstration of how the wind turbine works.
  Tre Thompson from Woodlawn Middle School and Matthew Wright from Southern Middle School present a demonstration of how the wind turbine works.

Through NC Science Olympiad, over 15,00 children state-wide “learn and shine with their knowledge of electricity,” said Dr. Grable.

FREEDM is led by NCSU but includes four other U.S. universities and one in New Zealand, Germany, and Switzerland.

This past week the focus was on the science camp for the middle school ABSS students.

Everything is hands-on, said Dr. Grable.

The National Science Foundation likes the fact that the teachers in the FREEDM camp stay in a hotel in Alamance County and pack and carry all the equipment to the site.

Another unusual factor, said Dr. Grable, the teachers come from Alamance-Burlington Schools and from North Carolina State University graduates and undergraduates.

Ben VonEitzen, a chemistry teacher at Graham High School, said that a number of middle school students have gone on to pursue science and engineering programs at the college level from the learning experience.

“Seeing how quickly these young minds can grasp the concepts outside the classroom, it makes me think: How can I present chemistry differently in the classroom?”

The principals at the middle schools elect to participate in the National Science Foundation partnership with FREEDM. At the camp, the principals send their teachers and students to also teach them about careers and how they may be suited for them.