Clemson engineers help elementary school students
By JOSIE RABBITT
CLEMSON — A mechanical engineering class at Clemson University challenged students with a semester-long project of crafting engineering tools so simple a fifth grader could understand how to use them. Eight teams of Clemson seniors tackled the time-sensitive project, finishing the tools Friday, so that 150 students from Midway Elementary School of Science and Engineering, in Anderson, could put them to the test.
Professor Joshua Summers, who teaches the class, said that each group was allotted $200 for the project, but some students pitched in out of their own pockets to enhance their projects.
“Engineering isn’t just about making money,” Summers said. “It’s about making sure everyone’s lives are better.”
The project endorsed engineers’ belief that they are there to “serve the betterment of human welfare,” according to Summers.
Midway Elementary Principal Brenda Kelley said that the seniors’ project reinforced to the elementary students that what they are learning is relevant.
“Just to see education come alive for them and to see those opportunities — that’s what we’re getting excited about,” Kelley said.
The donated projects will be used in the fifth-grade classrooms for furthering science projects and teaching lessons. This marks the third time Summers has led college classes to create equipment for elementary engineers. Previously, Summers’ classes have whipped up wind tunnels for aspiring engineers at Six Mile Elementary, Midway Elementary and East North Street Academy of Mathematics and Science in Greenville.
Sandy Bradshaw, the STEM teacher leader at Midway Elementary, said the fifth graders were enthralled to learn from young engineers.
“When they typically think of engineers, they think of older people,” Bradshaw said. “So from the minute these Clemson students come in, the excitement is there.”
For the Clemson students, the class is more than just a challenge and a deadline. Summers said the class is a precursor to a cast and design project. There is a push in “relevancy and passion for the work” when students have to design for “customers” like 10-year-old kids, Summers said.
“Designing things for 10-year-olds is both a challenge and a joy,” Summers said.
Clemson students also wrote lesson plans and experiment proposals that the elementary students can use during the school year.
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