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RE: Promoting Structural Engineering in High Schools

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Thank you Michael:

I agree 100% with you about the hands-on approach.  I will add this to my
list.

In case you want to see a short clip of the bridge falling, it is here:
http://www.civeng.carleton.ca/Exhibits/Tacoma_Narrows/

I also tend to agree that at high school, you cannot generate more interest
in the math and science.  But many students with an aptitude for math and
science and geared towards engineering are undecided on the branch of
specialization (even at the university levels).  I feel this is a two step
process - encourage engineering at the lower levels and interest them in the
field of specialization at the higher levels (even at community colleges).


- Aswin
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Aswin Rangaswamy, P.E.
Engineer, Structural; SHA Coffman Engineers, CA
T: 818.285.2650; F: 818.285.2651
rangaswamy(--nospam--at)sha.coffman.com
www.coffman.com


-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Hemstad [mailto:mlhemstad(--nospam--at)yahoo.com]
Sent: Wednesday, March 27, 2002 11:22 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: Promoting Structural Engineering in High Schools


Aswin,
I have a few simple thoughts to add.

About ten years ago the company I worked for at the
time had a relationship with an elementary school. 
Once a year, I gave a presentation to 5th and 6th
graders.  I presented to four classes, an hour each,
in one morning.  Counting travel, in 5 hours I made
maybe 120 students aware of and interested in what I
do.  We tested 4' wood furring strips in bending to
failure by standing kids on them (they loved that) and
learned about strong-axis and weak-axis strength.  We
crushed drinking-straw columns, full length and half
length, and learned about column buckling.  Then we
watched the Tacoma Narrows video.  This was a huge
success four at least four years.

A while later I took part in an ill-conceived CEC
project to a middle school.  The demonstrations were
similar, but involved 4 or 5 engineers talking and 30
kids just listening.  They all glazed immediately. 
Moreover, we only had arranged to talk to one class. 
Counting travel, we had two hours apiece times 5
people to bore 30 kids.  Big difference.

What I learned seems obvious: Use hands-on
demonstrations.  Let the kids break stuff, and learn
from it, then segue from that to slightly more
theoretical stuff (like, extend the concept of why a
stong-axis 1x2 is stronger, and then extend that to
why we build trusses).  Go in with just one or two
people, and line up a bunch of classes in a row. 
Coordinate carefully and personally with both the
principal and, more importantly, the individual
teachers (one forgot us and left us sitting in the
office in the presence of 5 rude and useless
secretaries for 20 minutes, even after we sent a
student to tell her we were there).

And above all, show the Tacoma Narrows video.

Mike Hemstad
TKDA
St. Paul, Minnesota

P.S.  I tend to agree with previous posters.  After
9th or 10th grade, if they haven't gotten on the
math-and-science track, it might be too late to
interest them in being engineers.


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