The University of New Orleans celebrated the value of engineering studies with a daylong event for area middle and high school students on Wednesday in honor of National Engineers Week.
More than 500 middle and high school students from several parishes in the metro area visited campus to enjoy dozens of interactive exhibits that included an underwater remote-operated vehicle, a hydraulic operated robot gripper, a NASA observatory and star dome, and many other hands-on activities.
The event, held in the University Center, was aimed at introducing the younger students to the broad field of engineering and to the faculty and students at UNO’s Dr. Robert A. Savoie College of Engineering, said Lizette Chevalier, dean of engineering.
“We have a number of businesses that have hands-on activities, our student organizations have hands-on activities, and the idea is to make a difference, to be present and to network with our larger community, because we are the University of New Orleans,” Chevalier said. “We have about 550 kids here today and they get this chance to see who we are too.”
The University of New Orleans offers the only civil, electrical, mechanical, and naval architecture and marine engineering programs in the metro area, making it an ideal host for such an event, said Zoe Giles, recruitment outreach manager for the Dr. Robert A. Savoie College of Engineering.
“My vision for this event was to expose the New Orleans community to the world of engineering through the University of New Orleans,” Giles said. “We want students to walk away with having a better understanding of the different engineering disciplines and what we do.”
NASA was there with its mobile observatory and star dome to teach about its Space Launch Program and space exploration, the naval architecture and marine engineering program had its electric eels on display and the mini Baja Club had its go-kart parked at the entrance of the University Center, Giles said.
“The go-kart was designed and built by the Baja Club,” Giles said.
Students were also treated to a screening of “Dream Big: Engineering Our World,” a feature-length film produced in partnership with the American Society of Civil Engineers. The film explores the human ingenuity behind engineering marvels large and small, and, producers say, promises to “transform how we think about engineering.”
Lataisha Rogers, a sophomore at Edna Karr High School in New Orleans, said she enjoyed the exhibits.
“It was very interesting,” Rogers said. “In the gallery they had built this roller coaster and had the kids racing (marbles). If you won, you got candy!”
The “roller coaster” experiment was a twin high-rise of twisty foam noodles set on a table with books for added lift. The exhibit, created by the UNO chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, was designed to illustrate conservation energy—how gravity and force play a role in how fast each marble travels from the top of the coaster to the bottom.
In a “perfect world,” barring friction and air resistance, the marbles should arrive at the bottom at the same time.
Tracee Brewer, a math teacher at Immaculate Conception School in Marrero, watched as some of her students constructed a tower using gum drops and tooth picks. The activity, courtesy of the New Orleans branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers, was designed to illustrate the importance of structural integrity in design and building.
“They are having a great time; some are really into the structural, civil engineering,” Brewer said. “I got some ideas to share with teachers back at school, some STEM projects that they can do.”