14
Nov
09

Math, Science, Engineering… and balloons!

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Who is this man, why is he blowing up balloons, and—most importantly—why is this photo the very first entry on this blog?

We’ll start at the beginning.

First, this gentleman is a K-12 math and science teacher from Central Florida. Second, he’s blowing up balloons because he’s using wind power as a propulsion device (couldn’t you tell?). Third, this is the first photo on this blog because it tells you, better than my words can, that there is much, much more going on at ASME’s International Congress here in Orlando (Lake Buena Vista, for those who want to be precise) than the technical presentations you might have thought made up this meeting. Besides, since we’re in the midst of Disney World, why not start the blog with something eye catching!

Certainly there are technical sessions here too. They begin Monday and will run through Thursday. More on those on Monday, but now, back to the balloons…

A group of about 50 people, composed of math and science teachers and engineers, participated this morning in an interactive session called “Inspire Innovation Workshop: Engineering in the Classroom.” The workshop was a hands-on session aimed at showing local teachers some techniques they can use in the classroom to stimulate interest in math, science and engineering. The idea is to give them an idea or two to take back with them to their schools.

Mahesh Aggarwal, chair of ASME’s pre-college committee, organized the workshop with help from staff and Karen Malesky, a consultant. Susan Epri Brown, an ASME volunteer involved in ASME’s Strategic  Management—and whose day job is associate director in the Office of STEM Education Partnerships School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University—told me that every year the workshop, part of ASME’s pre-college initiative, tries to provide something a little different, but the end goal is always the same: Make learning fun!

By the looks on the faces of those who participated in this workshop, clearly they were having a ball. And if it was fun for the teachers, this project will be fun for their students. The group was handed random items bought from a local convenience store, everything from thread and buttons to glue and paper, and were told to create a device, powered by the air from balloons, that would move four “passengers” (a simple load of coins, or cute little puffy creatures) on a track.

Learning should fun, “we want to give teachers some ideas on how to get the kids interested in engineering,” Epri Brown said. This workshop was just one in a number of programs ASME’s pre-college program runs throughout the year.


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The Editor

John G. Falcioni is Editor-in-Chief of Mechanical Engineering magazine, the flagship publication of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

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