The importance of teaching children math and science from an early age has always been stressed. Children are naturally curious which makes them ideally suited for exploring their world around them through activities and projects that inject math and science with fun. As a result, they can take their new knowledge outside of the classroom and apply it to their everyday life. Additionally, young children are extremely creative and receptive, therefore, by early exposure to math and science fundamentals, these students are bolstered with problem-solving skills that they can utilize in the future.
To this end, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Center for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (CEES) has set up a test program in K-12 Engineering Education that took place on January 28th, 2011, at the New York State Museum in Albany, NY. Over fifty fifth-graders from local school, Thomas O’Brien Academy of Science and Technology, K-5 Magnet School, City School District of Albany, NY, participated in this program. Most of children that took part in this program are from an inner-city neighborhood and a majority of them represented groups that are typically underrepresented and underserved in science and technology.
As part of this pilot program, Dr. Victoria Bennett presented an introductory look at Earthquake Simulation research and explained the role of civil engineers in community development and scientific research. After that, students took part in a “Make Your Own Earthquake” activity where they could jump and an accelerometer would record the vibrations of their ‘earthquake.’ The students also created their own miniature retaining wall models to test on RPI’s mini-centrifuge.
By offering the opportunity to experience hands-on scientific processes and to learn about civil engineering, these students gained insight into what skills and knowledge are necessary to become a civil engineer in the future and are perhaps encouraged to continue to focus on math and science in school.