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Career Day Presentation

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I used to give a lot of these presentations to younger kids, primarily 5th graders.  I always did 3 things, taking about an hour per class:
1.  I used wood furring strips (1x2's), 4 feet long, to demonstrate beam action.  I culled out the good ones and tested those on edge (strong axis); I used the ones with bad grain and knots for the weak axis test.  (Yes, make sure the demonstration works out the way you want it to).  With 5th graders, we put the furring strips up on little 2x6 stands and stood the kids on them, then counted how many kids it took to break them.  High school kids, you better pick the thin ones.  Then we compared, and talked about weak axis and strong axis, working around to the fact that the wood on the outside is more effective than the wood in the middle.  This led naturally to I-beams and then to trusses and joists (keep reducing less effective material in the mid-depth of the beam).
2.  I used drinking straws as columns.  I built little mouse-trap fixtures to hold a full-length straw and a half-length straw, then piled textbooks on the top of the fixture to see how many each could hold.  The half-length straw, of course, held more.  This led to a discussion of column buckling, then to trussed towers where the diagonals serve in part to reduce the effective length of the vertical members.
3.  I showed them a video of the Tacoma Narrows bridge.  They always asked if anyone was killed.  Once, I made the mistake of telling them that the guy walking drunkenly up the middle of the bridge forgot his daughter's cocker spaniel in the car (true, as far as I know).  Don't do that.
Even with high school kids, the chance to break stuff is very compelling. They'll love it.  They'll love anything that gets them off their butts and doing something.
Mike Hemstad
Minneapolis, Minnesota
From: Paul Blomberg
Sent: Tuesday=2C January 26=2C 2010 4:55 PM
To: seaint
Subject: Career Day Presentation
I volunteered to give a 20 minute
career day presentation for my wife's school district. The audience is
high school age and the career is structural engineering.
Has anyone done this before and
would you be willing to share you presentation outline or slides with me?