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Alfred University students discuss engineering with Alfred-Almond fifth and sixth graders


Callum Young, a junior mechanical engineering, mathematics, and computer science major assists students at Alfred-Almond Central School in assembling their robots

From Alfred University,

ALFRED, NY — A group of undergraduate engineering students from Alfred University went to Alfred-Almond Central School this week to talk to elementary school students about engineering and give a presentation on electronics.

The eight students—accompanied by Rebecca Welch, a PhD student in materials science and engineering at Pennsylvania State University who serves as visiting scholar and adjunct at Alfred University—visited Alfred-Almond as part of an outreach initiative organized by the University’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers.

The group met with approximately more than 100 fifth- and sixth-grade students over a two-day period Thursday and Friday, April 18 and 19. Welch gave a brief talk on graduate school and also a short lecture on how batteries function.

Students who volunteered to assist in the presentation Thursday were Abigail Gatza, a junior mechanical engineering major from Burlington, Ontario, Canada; Callum Young, a junior from Canandaigua, NY, majoring in mechanical engineering, mathematics, and computer science; Yevheniia Tkachenko, a first-year mechanical engineering major from Ivankiv, Ukraine; and Shannon Smith, a sophomore engineering major from Canandaigua, NY. The students talked to the youngsters about why they chose to major in engineering.

“I chose mechanical engineering because I like math and science, and it’s hands-on,” Gatza commented.

“Growing up, I really liked to work on projects like the one we’re about to,” Young added.

Following the talks, Welch and the students distributed Bristlebot kits to the elementary students. Bristlebots are a simple robot made up of what looks like a toothbrush head. A small motor is mounted on top of the brush, which is connected to a battery. Connecting battery to the motor with wire makes the brush vibrate and move around on the floor.

Engineering students assisted students in assembling their Bristlebots, explaining how the electronics work to power the motor. After attaching the battery and motor to their robots, students put their own personal touches by adding pipe cleaner legs and google-eyes. Once put together, the Bristlebots were let loose to move around on the classroom floor.

“I think it’s awesome to have this collaboration with Alfred-Almond,” Welch said. “Outreach is very important, especially for the undergrads, as it gives them a chance to explain science to everyday people. It’s very rewarding because you can immediately see (the youngsters’) eyes light up. You know it is having an impact when you can get young people interested in science.”

Students who participated in Friday’s demonstration at Alfred-Almond were Huey Kim and Briana Hayes; Andrea McMahon, a mechanical engineering major from Almond, who attended Alfred-Almond Central School; and Beatice Crespo, a sophomore art major from Takoma Park, MD.

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