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Visiting Engineers Spark Middle School Students’ Engineering Interest

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Visiting Engineers Spark Middle School Students’ Engineering Interest
Posted on 02/06/2015
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A visiting engineer recently challenged eighth-graders in teacher Christel Driscoll’s science class at Lincoln Middle School to an engineering competition in which they designed packages for computer chips that met the requirements of being lightweight, small in volume, stackable and marketable.

“Students were actively engaged with the competition and experiencing the engineering process,” Driscoll said. “The winning group's package was not only small, lightweight and marketable, it withstood being hurled against a wall and having a weighted object dropped on it.”

Mitch Farrar, an engineer with Texas Instruments in South Portland and a participant in the Engineering Ambassadors program, was the visiting engineer who guided the students during the "Ship the Chip" activity. The Engineering Ambassadors program, co-sponsored by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers); IEEE-USA, the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance; and Texas Instruments, strives to stimulate students’ interest in technical fields in their middle school years, according to Driscoll.

She said that in the “Ship the Chip” activity that took place during Farrar’s visit, students collaborated in small groups to design a package to protect a single chip. The packages the groups designed had to be lightweight, small and able to be stacked, as well as being marketable.

Farrar also told the students about his engineering career, explaining his academic experiences and how that led him to his job with Texas Instruments. 

Also, in another recent classroom visit, medical equipment engineer Ken Carr told students about his career.

“He shared the importance of not only having skills in math and science but curiosity as important skills for engineering,” Driscoll said.

She said Carr is the founder of eight companies and has more than 70 patents, some of which include parts for the first microwaves, heat seekers for missiles, and various medical devices for heart arrhythmia and a brain temperature detector for infants. Carr also told students he was a spy for NASA during the Cold War and played baseball for a minor league team for several years.