Middle school students from St. Charles Borromeo School in Destrehan, La. spent four days delving into engineering topics and creating projects to demonstrate those concepts as part of the University of New Orleans robotic eel camp.
“We’re just trying to expose as many young people as possible to these concepts in engineering,” UNO engineering professor Brandon Taravella said. “Some of the concepts they may not be familiar with and we just try to show them some of the equipment we use and just some of the things we do.”
The "PrivatEEL STEM" camp, led by UNO's Boysie Bollinger School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, was funded by the Louisiana Board of Regents and held June 13-16.
The students spent the past week performing various STEM activities, such as building water bottle rockets, constructing and testing the strength of straw towers and printing 3-D balloon powered cars, Taravella said.
“We’ve been doing various things from 3-D modeling to robot design, robot building, computer programming,” Taravella said. “Just learning various concepts in naval architecture, civil engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering.”
The students were joined by three St. Charles Borromeo teachers. Taravella said the educators could use the camp experience to supplement activities in their classrooms and with the school’s STEM Club.
“The idea is that they are kind of learning some of the things we do here and maybe that helps them explain things a little bit better in their classroom,” Taravella said. “As well as learn a few new things for their lab experiences back in their classroom."
The students also toured UNO’s engineering labs and, as a culminating project, created their own robotic eel.
Taravella is the recipient of several grants for his research into hydrodynamic propulsion that led to the creation of the robotic eel for use as an underwater drone, to search for mines and in data collection.
The camp culminated Thursday with students testing their own robotic eels in the University’s Recreation & Fitness Center pool.