Watson Chronicle


Watson College News

Laney H.S. Students Participate in Engineering, Biodiesel Projects at UNCW

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Twenty-three freshmen in the engineering cohort of the STEM program offered at Laney High School participated in hands-on engineering and biodiesel projects at UNCW on March 9.

As the program began, Amy Reamer spoke with students about career opportunities in the field of engineering. Reamer is coordinator of the pre-engineering program offered jointly by the NC State University College of Engineering and the UNCW College of Arts and Sciences.

Over the course of the morning, Youth Programs’ engineering program coordinator Kathy Ibbotson engaged students in the design of football helmets to prevent concussions and bicycle helmets to meet the needs of various demographics.

For the football project, Ibbotson provided plastic skulls made from a 3-D printer, tofu to serve as brains and a variety of materials including straws, rubber bands and duct tape that could be used to engineer a safe helmet. When the students finished, Ibbotson and Laney STEM program coordinator Ellen Blackman Salley tested the effectiveness of their designs by dropping each onto wood from a height of six feet.

Many students in the STEM program are also athletes, so projects like this really appeal to them, Salley said.

While on the UNCW main campus, students also designed bicycle helmets for a range of audiences including young children, commuters and BMX racers. After lunch, they traveled to UNCW’s Center for Marine Science, where they participated in biodiesel projects led by MarineQuest school program coordinator Harris Muhlstein.

Laney High School introduced the STEM program in 2014 to prepare students for future careers in science, biomedical technology, engineering and mathematics. The school offers cohorts in biomedical technologyand engineering. There are currently 145 freshman and sophomores participating in the program.

A major objective of the STEM program is to partner with local industries, community organizations and educational institutions to provide career information and project-based learning opportunities for students. Salley contacted Ibbotson to discuss the possibility of an on-campus engineering program after meeting her at the second annual K-12 Teacher Education Conference, hosted by WCE’s Center for Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (CESTEM) in January. Ibbotson was keynote speaker and a session presenter at the conference.

A former process engineer and engineering supervisor at International Paper, Ibbotson joined UNCW’s Youth Programs in 2015. In just over a year, she has partnered with Youth Programs director Sue Kezios to grow UNCW’s engineering summer camps and Saturday enrichment programs for youth in the region by 40 percent. The Laney STEM event was UNCW’s first school engineering outreach program, and Ibbotson hopes to partner with additional schools on programs like this in the future, she said.

For information on UNCW’s MarineQuest Coast-to Classroom programs offered in schools and at UNCW’s Center for Marine Science for children of all ages, visit www.uncw.edu/marinequest/schoolprograms.html.

For information on UNCW’s growing engineering program offerings, visit https://uncw.edu/youth/programs/engineering.html.