By Joan Chadde, co-PI/co-author/coordinator Family Engineering Program, retired
Squeals of delight could be heard from students and adults alike, as they tackled one engineering challenge after another. Students worked in family “engineering teams” to design and construct the tallest tower using only spaghetti and marshmallows that could withstand hurricane-force winds (fans at top speeds!). Students worked as civil engineers to design a bridge using a single sheet of copy paper that could span two books six inches apart. One team’s bridge held more than 100+ pennies between the books! In yet another engineering challenge, parents and their kids became marine engineers and designed a boat from clay that could hold the most cargo (pennies) before sinking. Another activity was a biomedical engineering challenge of designing a prosthetic hand in 20 minutes that could be used to write with a pencil and pick up a cup of water.
These events were made possible by a partnership between the Michigan Tech Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering and OHM Advisors (Livonia office). Family engineering events were held after school at Neinas Dual Language Learning Academy (Detroit), Blackwell Institute (Detroit), and Livonia Elementary Schools. OHM’s support provided the program at no cost to the schools, including two event facilitators from Michigan Tech, all of the activity supplies, a free pizza dinner for participants, and a copy of the Family Engineering Activity & Event Planning Guide for each school. In addition, a half dozen OHM staff volunteered to assist with each event—setting up activities, interacting with families, encouraging students, and serving as role models.
|Host Schools for Family Engineering Events||Attendance|
|Neinas Dual Language Learning Academy 6021 McMillan St., Detroit||90 Total39 Adults51 K-6 Students|
|Blackwell Institute1981 McKinstry St, Detroit||35 Total15 Adults 20 K-8 Students|
|Livonia Elementary Schools8900 Newburgh Rd., Livonia||90 Total39 Adults51 K-6 Students|
Parents had lots of positive comments after attending one of the three Family Engineering events held in early December in SE Michigan:
- Thanks for a great event!
- My daughter was engaged and had a lot of fun.
- My sons and I had a wonderful time
- This was an excellent event! It gave my kids lots of ideas!
When asked what their family learned about engineering, responses included:
- There are many different types of engineering
- Engineering helps in everyday life
- How engineers design inventions
- Nature inspires engineers to invent new things
- Engineering is an important part of the world
OHM Advisors, with offices in five states and eleven locations in Michigan, works across multiple service areas, including architecture, engineering, planning, urban design and landscape architecture, surveying, and construction engineering, to create better places for people. An important initiative is increasing the diversity of the STEM pipeline and that means reaching down into elementary schools to introduce engineering to students and their parents. Parents play an important role in guiding and supporting their child’s learning and future career path.
The Family Engineering Program was created by Michigan Tech with partners The Foundation for Family Science & Engineering and the American Society of Engineering Education. A Family Engineering Activity & Event Planning Guide was published in 2011. The activity guide, with thirteen 30-40 minute engineering challenges and 21 short 3-5 minute engineering opener activities, is designed for K-6 educators and for engineers who work with elementary-aged students. It’s ideal for engineering professionals, informal STEM education programs, and STEM college students who want to do outreach in their communities and increase the diversity of the STEM pipeline. To learn more about the Family Engineering program, attend a training workshop, or purchase an activity guide, visit: https://www.mtu.edu/family-engineering/ or email Tom Oliver firstname.lastname@example.org