“Ladies and gentlemen, step right up!” Eric Carpenter proclaimed with the aplomb of a stage magician. Carpenter was one of three members of the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Science Discovery program presenting hands-on engineering to Western Slope students.
The all day event, titled “Engineering is Everywhere,” drew teachers and fourth- through eighth-graders from Glenwood, Carbondale, Basalt, Parachute, and as far away as Rangely. Mountain BOCES arranged to bring the workshop to Colorado Mountain College’s Glenwood Springs campus. Rose Ley, director of professional learning at BOCES, had previously worked with the program when she was a principal in Salida.
Carpenter’s “21st Century Materials” section of the workshop contained a wealth of information about modern material science, including a lab with “muscle wire” (an alloy of nickel and titanium with applications in robotics), a presentation on bioplastics, and a demonstration of a 3-D printer.
“This is the science nobody tells you about,” he told the crowd.
Upstairs, Dave Abbott tried to illustrate the difference between science and engineering.
“Instead of starting with a question you start with a goal,” he explained.
Abbott’s group used Shrinky Dinks for a low-tech version of work CU Boulder is doing with photo-origami, using markers to influence the way plastic bends under heat. Abbott has an astronomy background, but took to teaching after doing a presentation for a kindergarten class in Boulder.
“I’m particularly suited to this because I can talk to both kids and scientists.”
Phyllis Ashe rounded out the event with labs on bioengineering and biodesign — a field with major applications in medicine and the environment.
“The goal is to give teachers activities they can use in their class to teach engineering,” Carpenter explained.
Each teacher brought five students with them to help them try the labs on for size. Not that students seem to mind.
“The kids are into it,” teacher Stacey Maule observed.