Could you build a bridge using paper and scotch tape, one that would hold several pounds of concrete?
Would you be able determine what is causing an alarm to sound on a spacecraft and then resolve the issue?
How would you precisely measure out four ounces of liquid using nothing but two cups: one that holds three ounces and one that holds five ounces?
About 1,300 middle and high school students from 23 New Orleans-area schools took on these challenges and more Wednesday during the University of New Orleans' celebration of National Engineers Week.
UNO's College of Engineering partnered with Core Element and the American Society of Civil Engineers on the event, bringing together a host of partners who provided plenty of hands-on activities to help students engage in engineering-related concepts.
Eighth-graders Tristan Smith, Simeon Greay of Harry S. Truman Middle School in Marrero smiled and puzzled over the liquid measuring math problem, pouring water in and out of the cups, while Blake Landry of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory looked on.
"When people start doing it without first working through the mental math," Landry said, "it takes a little longer."
In the next room, groups of students sat for one of the four screenings of "Dream Big: Engineering Our World," a feature-length film produced in partnership with the American Society of Civil Engineers that explores the human ingenuity behind engineering marvels large and small.
The movie examines the ways in which engineers shape our everyday lives while using their imaginations and expertise to solve complicated problems - designing buildings that withstand earthquakes and bridges that help people traverse dangerous waterways.
Across the hall, students entered a portable planetarium provided by NASA.
"What engineers do is to create something new," said Kim Jovanovich, UNO's interim associate dean of engineering, who addressed the students before the movie. "Their job in life is to make the world a better place to live through their knowledge of science. Without science, engineers can't exist and without engineers, there's no reason for science."
Juan Lastrapes, 17, a junior at Northshore High School in Slidell, said he's long been interested in the field of engineering, but that the day underscored what an exciting field it can be. Lastrapes and several of his classmates said they particularly enjoyed NASA's exercise on how to diagnose and fix a circuitry problem aboard a spacecraft.
In addition to NASA, exhibitors at the event included Intralox, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NASA, Entergy Corp., Monsanto-NACE, Girl Scouts of America, Strategic Petroleum Reserve, NASA, Shell Oil, the U.S. Naval Research Lab and University College Engineers.