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AFIT Hosts Its Largest Group of STEM Students for National Engineers Week
Posted Monday, April 04, 2016

 

Over the course of two days, AFIT hosted nearly 300 local school children from grades 6th through 12th in support of the 2016 National Engineers Week.  During the week of 21-27 Feb, universities nation-wide host Engineers Week activities to promote interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields through outreach to students in grades K-12.

In what has become a major highlight of the year for AFIT, Demo Days involves bringing students to AFIT to see engineering demonstrations given by academic departments and research centers.  This year, representatives from NASIC, WPAFB's Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight, the WPAFB Educational Outreach Office, and students from Central State University, joined AFIT to provide demonstrations and presentations.

Participating schools included:  The Dayton Regional STEM School, Mad River Middle School, Dayton Christian School, Greenon Local School, Thurgood Marshall High School, Archbishop McNicholas School, The Dayton Early College Academy, and WPAFB Home School Groups.

New activities this year included a star tracking demonstration and energy bike.  Research conducted at AFIT in collaboration with NASA was used to illustrate basic problems in astronomy and the value of simulations for reducing the cost of testing equipment designed to work in space.

 

Teachers from WPAFB Educational Outreach Office were on hand to demonstrate how mechanical energy can be transformed into electrical energy with the use of an energy bike.  Students quickly volunteered to pedal the bike which illuminated various light bulbs and small appliances based on their peddling speed. 

   

Representatives from the American Nuclear Society set up a Mouse Trap Reactor as a visual representation of a chain reaction in a confined space.  Students dropped colored ping pong balls through holes in a plastic box, hitting white ping pong balls, setting off the mouse traps and creating a chain reaction.  Similarly, in a nuclear power plant, the chain reaction is controlled by restricting the number of neutrons (colored ping pong balls) available to collide with the Uranium (white ping pong balls).  This is accomplished by absorbing some of the released neutrons with various materials.  In an uncontrolled chain reaction (such as an atom bomb explosion) there is nothing to control the number of neutrons being released, so the rate of the chain reaction increases dramatically.

   

Airmen from WPAFB's Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight demonstrated hazardous material response equipment. Students were also able to see inside their Mobile Response Unit.

   

Classic AFIT demonstrations included the always popular gum drop bridge hosted by The Civil Engineering School.  Students built bridges using toothpicks and gum drops and then tested their design's strength by adding successive amounts of weight.

   

The Civil Engineer School also taught students how to build and test a simplified electric motor.  The activity demonstrates the principles of electromagnetics and how it can be used to make motion.  The student volunteers from Central State University built gliders with the students and representatives from NASIC provided a variety of presentations on topics such as ballistic missiles, aerial imaging, and jet engines.

   

Volunteers from The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics helped students design, build and fly rockets made from soda straws.  Students went through an iterative process of test and redesign to optimize their design for distance.  A second competition ensued where the students adjusted the launch angle and launch force in order to have their rocket hit a target.

   

During a visit to AFIT's Autonomy and Navigation Technology (ANT) Center, students learned about GPS and alternative navigation technologies for situations when GPS is either unavailable or unreliable. Autonomous ground robots and small indoor Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) platforms demonstrated the power of integrated technologies, such as vision sensors and inertial measurement units. Students enjoyed initiating autonomous UAS flight paths in the ANT Center's Vicon motion capture flight chamber.

       

In the end, there was great learning as well as laughter, and hopefully, several scientists and engineers in the future!

Engineers Week is part of a nation-wide effort to celebrate and promote engineering and is sponsored by DiscoverE, a coalition of academic, industry, and professional organizations.  The United States faces a critical shortage of students who choose to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  AFIT is committed to encouraging the next generation of talent to become leaders in STEM fields.