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Dartmouth Engineering Student Connected with Children's Hospital to Offer Online LEGO® Build-Along

Sep 01, 2020   |   by Julie Bonette

This spring, as schools across the US shut their doors in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the nation's youngest population faced a long, lonely summer. To help combat boredom, staff at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth (CHaD) decided to offer a free virtual camp open to all, "Camp CHaD."

In search of programming, Kristin LaFromboise, Manager of CHaD Community Programs and a former Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth staff member, turned to Thayer Career Services.

“At Thayer Career Services, we consistently look for connections between our engineering students, their interests, and the needs of our employers. Our team supports engineering students with their career endeavors—including finding opportunities to develop their technical skills and give back to the community,” said Amy Keeler, Associate Director of Career Services.

When Keeler reviewed LaFromboise’s request, immediately Michael Cullen, a Dartmouth engineering Dual Degree student who had previously contacted Career Services looking for summer opportunities in volunteering or mentoring, came to mind.

When approached with the opportunity, Cullen was excited to use his longtime love of LEGOs to help inspire youngsters with a "LEGO® Build-Along" course. After finding his old LEGO kits, he put together a video demonstration of three separate builds: a phone stand, a box with a hinged lid, and a Formula 1 Racing Car. Cullen also shared a presentation listing the parts required for each build and additional ideas encouraging viewers to adapt and expand the projects.

Michael Cullen leads a LEGO Build-Along for Camp CHaD
Dartmouth engineering Dual Degree student, Michael Cullen, leads a LEGO® Build-Along for Camp CHaD.

“It’s a form of art, and being able to tap into that as a child is definitely a cool thing to be able to look back on. At that age, the possibilities are endless,” said Cullen.

In the end, it was a win-win-win situation.

“Thayer Career Services is here to provide engineering students with the resources necessary to build relationships, develop professional skills, and think creatively about enhancing their resume—especially in times of uncertainty,” said Keeler.

“We appreciate having a student from Thayer School take part as a Camp CHaD leader,” said LaFromboise. “Michael put together a great mini-course for budding engineers that we know our Camp CHaD kids could enjoy!”

Camp CHaD ran from July 6 through August 21. In addition to Cullen’s LEGO course, campers had opportunities to learn more about STEAM, cooking, history, and many more topics.

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