Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

High School Students Thrive at Dartmouth’s Summer Engineering Workshop

By Anna Fiorentino
September 2014 • CoolStuff

Thayer School opened its doors to 37 teenagers for the second “Design It! Build It!” summer engineering workshop run by Dartmouth engineering professor Vicki May.

Students in the summer engineering workshop at Dartmouth

As opposed to last year when students in grades 9-12 were admitted, this year’s workshop focused on just juniors and seniors. “Having a narrower range of ages improved the program,” says May. “The students were much more engaged this year and very fun to work with. They were willing to jump in on all of the design challenges, asked great questions, and seemed to enjoy their time here.”

One student who entered the workshop interested in pursuing a biology degree left with her eye more on engineering. “I became interested in biomedical engineering when we toured all the awesome labs that are here and we realized what the machines here are capable of doing and also when we used the SOLIDWORKS program and we realized everything that you can do with it. Anything you can think of in your mind you can create,” says workshop attendee Megan Morris. The SOLIDWORKS 3-D design software enabled Morris and the other teens to see their computer designs become actual physical objects.

Measuring albedo
A workshop student measures albedo—a reflective property of different surfaces.

During the two-week workshop, engineering professor Peter Robbie provided students with an open-ended design framework that May carried through to all of the student projects—ranging from skateboards to electronic instruments to rockets and even underwater robots. In addition, professor John Collier spoke to attendees about problem solving, professor Chris Levy explained Arduino, an open-source electronics platform, and Ph.D. student Alden Adolph '11, Th’12, who is part of the Dartmouth IGERT team, held a session on arctic albedo.

“The students went outside and measured artic albedo, which is a reflective property of different surfaces,” says May.

May launched the workshop last year after hearing for years from local K-12 teachers that they wanted to give students more opportunities to better their understanding of engineering.

“All the students loved the machine shop and design aspects of the workshop and were often surprised to find that engineers participate in these types of activities,” she says.

Tags: faculty, machine shop, STEM, students

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