Emerging Engineers

This week, our campers are Emerging Engineers who have been solving challenges and learning what it really means to be an engineer!

Day 1

On Monday, we learned all about what engineers do, and why they are so important to our world! We tried a sampler of engineering activities. First, we built roller coasters out of foam tubing and tape! We worked hard to see how long, how tall, and how fast we could get our roller coasters to be.

Then, we created mazes for our robotic mice. Groups coded the mouse to complete the maze, using buttons on the mouse’s back to tell it when to go straight and when to turn.

Last, groups got to make complicated structures from simple materials: just paper and tape! Campers used paper folded, bent, and taped in different ways to meet challenges, like holding up a book, or building a bridge across 2 tables that a matchbox car can cross.

Day 2

On Tuesday, we practiced our civil and structural engineering! We built mountains and hills on pieces of cardboard, creating our own terrain, and we had other groups study our landscapes and try to find the best route for a road between and around the mountains. Next, we learned about the three little pigs – engineering style! Each “little pig” was a different mixture of glue, water, and clay. Just like the story, only one was strong enough to withstand our intense testing!

We also used K’nex, a very cool building toy, to practice building bridges when given directions. Engineers follow blueprints, and so did we!

Of course, while Engineers sometimes have to follow directions, sometimes they also have to design on their own, so we also built bridges using straws, tape, and our imaginations!

Day 3

Wednesday was all about mechanical engineering. We learned about cane toads, an invasive species that lives in New Zealand. We looked at different traps that scientists are using to capture (and not harm) the toads. The campers had the choice to either make one of the traps better, or design their own trap to capture the toad without hurting it. We used wind-up toys to test our traps out and see if they could make it in the field!

We also used all different kinds of materials to create a balloon-powered car, a car that uses a balloon as an engine! This activity really blew us away.

Day 4

Thursday, we learned about coding. Washtenaw Engineering for Kids made a special visit to help with the SumoBots. They brought in programmable robots, and the older campers got to program and assemble the bots!

We also all got to build Lego mazes. We used computer coding language to create a “program” to get a plastic animal through the maze, without running into any walls! The younger kids spent lots of time learning how to use coding language. We used it to direct a member of their group to one special paper square in a group of paper squares. We also got to play a fun twist on Simon Says where we used coding language to tell the group what to do!

Day 5

 After we knew the basics of coding, we got to move on to robotics on Friday! The older campers returned to their SumoBots to put the finishing touches on them and to battle them. The younger campers had their own program, where they programmed robots to move and make sounds.

We also all had an engineering challenge to complete: using almost any materials, build a boat that floats! Campers were encouraged to get creative, and think about what kind of materials might work best. They had to use all their knowledge about engineering from the whole week!