At Howell Cheney Technical High School in Manchester, CT, students enjoy a unique learning opportunity enabling them to explore engineering concepts and to apply these principles in often fun ways, thanks to a National Science Foundation-funded program that embeds engineering graduate students in selected classrooms.
During the fall semester, Cheney Tech freshmen taking CADD coursework were mentored by Chemical Engineering doctoral student Neil Spinner. Throughout the term, they explored a number of principles and engaged in hands-on lessons. For one lesson, students were asked to design a device that would protect an uncooked egg from breaking when dropped from varying heights.
Watch this video to see how the students applied their classroom lessons, with varying levels of success: Cheney Egg Drop.
For the challenge, the freshmen were allowed to “purchase” their choice of materials to be used as cushioning for a raw, uncracked egg. The materials available for purchase included balloons, bubble wrap, paper, rubber bands, straws, duct tape, and ribbon. Teams then assembled their materials into a cushioning nest that they hoped would keep the egg intact when the contraption was dropped.
Neil explained, “This was a lesson simulating real-life engineering where limited resources and/or funding is available, and a certain task or goal must be achieved – in this case, having the egg survive.” The task involved teamwork: groups of two to three worked together on any single device. Neil noted that the challenge also entailed principles of mathematics and physics, with the exercise providing a live demonstration of the force of impact, and principles of falling aerodynamics of various designs such as parachutes and balloons.
The GK-12 program at UConn is supported by a $2.7 million NSF award and is intended to provide graduate students unique learning opportunities that will broadly prepare them for professional and scientific careers in the 21st century, while invigorating K-12 classrooms with valuable STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) lessons. UConn elected to focus on the often underserved Connecticut Tech Schools, which provide an excellent education for technically-inclined students across the state. For more coverage of the GK-12 program at UConn, click here.