The Next Generation

The Next Generation

December 6, 2018

DEI hosts nearly two-dozen students to discover more about energy, engineering, and science

Typically, building rockets, solar cars, skyscrapers, and windmills is work reserved for experienced engineers. But for one December afternoon, a different group had the opportunity to try their hand at it: nearly two dozen boys and girls, from kindergarten to high school, getting a firsthand look at what it takes to study, work, and thrive in energy-related STEM fields.

The event, hosted at the Harker Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering (ISE) Lab by the Delaware Energy Institute and the Delaware chapter of Epsilon Rho Zeta, brought together expertise, learning, fun, and a little bit of UDairy ice cream to help provide answers to students about science, engineering, and energy research.

Younger students constructed rockets from Alka-Seltzer and water.

“Empowering the local community is absolutely essential,” says Max Cohen, a Ph. D. candidate in chemical engineering at the University of Delaware who organized the event. “I’m glad we had the chance to share STEM concepts and activities with these students, and possibly expand their knowledge about this field of study.”

Cohen was joined by fellow graduate students Natalia Rodriguez-Quiroz and Lily Cheng, and UD postdoctoral researchers Himanshu Goyal and Talin Avanesian in helping supervise activities.

Visiting students, Ph.D. candidates, and postdoctoral researchers pose with appropriate lab safety gear.

For the day, younger students took on the tasks of building solar cars and rockets, the latter fueled by the explosive-but-safe chemistry of combining Alka-Seltzer and water. Meanwhile, in addition to a tour of lab facilities where important catalysis and energy-related research is conducted at UD, older students were given the job to construct skyscrapers and windmills—not out of the usual materials, of course, but with marshmallows, dried spaghetti, tape, and string.

And while there were many crucial lessons imparted by the day’s activities—including the vital importance of hypotheses, tests, variables, teamwork, and experimentation in all things STEM—Cohen emphasizes an equally important takeaway for visiting students: that failure can be a success in its own right.

“Hopefully, our focus on engineering fundamentals through experiential learning has not only excited students about this area of study,” Cohen adds, “but their own potential pursue it.”

 | Photos by Jaynell Keely