MARTINSVILLE – Local middle school students are discovering what it takes to succeed in the world of engineering through hands-on learning and conversations with engineers from Eastman.
New College Institute (NCI) hosted groups of students from Carlisle School, Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School, Laurel Park Middle School, and Martinsville Middle School for Engineering Day this past week.
“It is important to expose area students to local professionals and engage them in hands-on learning so that they can explore a wide range of career interests including engineering,” said Steve Keyser, NCI coordinator of community engagement.
Anne Stultz, coordinator of advanced learning and STEM programs for Martinsville City Public Schools agreed. “This trip gave our students a chance to learn about opportunities available for them here in Martinsville. STEM is the future, and we want to be sure our students are aware of all the possibilities open to them.”
During Engineering Day, students began by learning about certain aptitudes and interests that make for a successful engineer from John Hatchett, Virginia State University faculty and Academy for Engineering and Technology (AET) professor. AET is a program that allows high school students to earn college credits in engineering. AET is hosted at NCI for students in Martinsville-Henry County and hosted at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research for students in Danville and Pittsylvania County.
“Many students enjoy science and math, but students interested in engineering must also be able to think creatively,” said Hatchett. “It’s not as simple as plugging in a formula. Engineers have to be innovative problem solvers.”
After reviewing engineering principles in energy conservation, students participated in a hands-on activity called the “Lunar Landing” in which they simulate the challenge of landing on the moon while maintaining the safety of the astronauts. They faced the challenge of understanding the relationship between gravitational force and shock absorption to make their landing a success while collaborating with their peers. This was an exercise in the “Four C’s” of education: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.
“I have enjoyed all the hands-on learning, and one day I would like to be an engineer,” said James Li, eighth grade student at Martinsville Middle School. “The trick to engineering challenges is to pay attention to what works and keep that in the design.”
Students also toured NCI’s advanced manufacturing high bay to learn about equipment that engineers may use in the field.
“I was surprised to see the academic coater and all the equipment available at NCI,” said Cynthia White, eighth grade student at Martinsville Middle School (MMS). According to previous Bulletin reports, the coater is a one-of-a-kind machine used mainly to train people for jobs with Eastman and other performance film manufacturers.
The day concluded with students participating in a question and answer session with various engineers from Eastman. These engineers shared insights from their educational path and work experiences.