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Kids Do Cool Composites Stuff at Engineering Camp

13 August 2010

Now in its fifth year, the Engineering Cool Stuff Camp at the University of Delaware continues to welcome and engage the engineers of tomorrow through a program that combines hands-on experiments, youthful enthusiasm and teamwork.

During the Engineering Outreach-sponsored camp, which ran from July 12-16 and July 19-23, participants ages 12-16 used basic engineering principles to design and build everything from solar-powered lights to earthquake-resistant structures. They also designed, built and tested composite sandwich structures and composite beams, facilitated by members of the UD student chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE)

Composite beams measured

Students got to see how well their completed composite structures held up when subjected to testing using equipment in the Composites Manufacturing Science Laboratory on UD's Newark campus.

Having designed the composite beams to be as light and effective per weight as possible, students explained why some of the structures fared better than others.

The Unbreakables were a credit to their team name with their winning combination of balsa wood, fiberglass, foam and aluminium. The team earned top bragging rights by building the sandwich structure with the best weight-to-strength ratio. The team roster included Caesare Pineda of Salesianum School, Barry Moe from the Wilmington Charter School, Colleen Murray of the Immaculate Conception School in Elkton, Md., and Tre Jackson from Shue-Medill Middle School in Newark.

“We kept all the pieces in the shapes in which they were given to us,” Jackson said. “These elements were held together with resin glue. We tried to determine which combination was the lightest and strongest.”

Camp still growing

“We've grown from a one-session camp of 20 kids in 2006, to having two sessions of 35 students each this year,” Kathy Werrell, assistant dean for Engineering Outreach Pre-college and Special Programs, said. “With the larger enrolment, we had to provide more activities, so we split the number of students in half each week, rotating them through the activities and giving everyone a chance at every activity while preserving that small-group, individualized attention feel that campers like.”