Standing in front of a classroom, parents and student leaders face the back as 6- to12-year-olds target them for catapult practice. As the small objects fly through the air, the kids are learning about force, accuracy, precision, and angles.
In another area, carefully crafted floating devices find their way from the second story balcony to the first floor, caring precious cargo — a raw egg. The infamous “egg drop” introduces students to physics, materials, science, and fluid dynamics.
These activities and more are all part of “Introduce a Kid to Engineering Day” (IKED) at UNLV. For the past several years, the College of Engineering’s classrooms and grounds have transformed into learning labs where kids, led by engineering students, faculty, and professional engineers, build bridges, towers, gliders, and more in an effort to help younger generations engage in STEM-based learning and discover the fun of engineering.
Mechanical engineering senior Sophia Leon knows how important it is to get kids interested in STEM at a young age. “Any experience I had in STEM wasn’t until I was in high school,” said Leon. “IKED exposes kids to engineering much earlier, and gives them a chance to develop a passion for it.”
Leon is a member of the UNLV student organization American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, which along with 10 other student groups, volunteered to lead learning activities for IKED. Important to the event — and the participating engineering students — is that the kids get hands-on experience and an understanding of how to apply what they are learning to the tasks at hand.
“Society does a lot about telling kids what to think, not how to think,” said Sara Pena, mother of one of the students taking part in the event. “To go anywhere in life, you need to have the ability to think (for yourself).”
In all, more than 300 students from more than 120 schools came to campus and participated, many joined by their parents.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for kids to experience the challenges and excitement of engineering,” said Molly Marks, College of Engineering director of events and lead organizer of the event. “We’re also excited to give parents a reason to come to campus and see all that UNLV has to offer.”
When asked what he thought of the day’s events, 7-year-old Micah from Eisenberg Elementary School gave it a “thumbs up.”
About the Event
IKED is hosted each year during EWeek, established by the National Society of Professional Engineers in 1951 to promote and work toward a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding and interest in engineering and technology careers.
Throughout the event which took place on two consecutive Saturdays in February, participants rotated between activity stations which included:
- Pipe Towers – Building the highest and strongest structure out of pipe cleaners
- Arch Bridge - Exploring the physics of bridges and building an arch bridge
- Hour of Code – Learning the basics of coding in a themed game
- Glider Build – Creating a glider built for distance
- Egg Drop – Designing a contraption to protect a raw egg from a high fall