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Students learn about engineering while building edible cars

December 5, 2018

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — A concoction of celery, cake frosting, uncooked spaghetti noodles and assorted candies would be enough to make a person’s stomach turn, but for some area students it was a winning recipe.

And while some did more snacking than building, more than 30 kids tried their hands at building edible cars during a recent Exploring Engineering event for elementary and middle school-aged children, an event that aims to promote STEM careers in fun, engaging ways.

Participants has a smorgasbord of options when deciding which foods would work best to build a car that could safely navigate a ramp as fast as possible.

No matter if they picked hard candies or marshmallows for wheels or a banana or rice crispy treat for the body of the vehicle, event coordinator Paige Underwood said the event is all about trying different things and seeing how each works with one another.

“We really want the kids to explore the design process with their cars because design is an integral part of engineering,” said Underwood, a senior chemical engineering student from Paris, Illinois.

“No matter what discipline of engineering you go into, design is important. So in making these edible cars they can take their time and really try different things out before coming up with their final design.”

Rene Hankins, director of pre-college outreach at Rose-Hulman, said engaging young students with STEM-related activities and getting them thinking about their future is important.

“Things like this really give young students an opportunity to see what engineering is really about and to assemble something and see if it can race down the track,” Hankins said.

“And by exposing them to some problem solving issues, it won’t matter what they do in life because they’ll be able to think outside the box and approach a problem from a different way.”

Brandon Troxel, a seventh grader at Otter Creek Middle School, said he arrived at his celery stalk car with lifesaver wheels after trying a number of things that didn’t work as well.

“Originally I had fruit loops for wheels,” Troxel said. “But they didn’t work out too well. They weren’t big enough for what I was trying to do.

“The cake frosting doesn’t serve a purpose, though. It and the sprinkles are purely for decoration.”

Underwood said seeing youths like Troxel enjoy building an edible car and exploring basic engineering principles is exciting for the future of engineering.

“When I was their age there wasn’t a lot that I could do to learn more about what engineering was,” Underwood said. “So for them to get this opportunity and to have fun on campus with us, hopefully that makes them more interested in engineering in the future.”

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Source: Tribune-Star

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Information from: Tribune-Star, http://www.tribstar.com

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