Hands-on presentations spark learning opportunities for Washington County students

Breaunna Robinson, a seventh grade student from Marietta Middle School, reacts as a classmate guns a bid diesel engine in the auto-diesel mechanics shop at Washington State Community College. Robinson was one of several hundred students who participated in Young Engineers and Scientists days at the college Thursday and Friday. (Photo by Michael Kelly)

MARIETTA — In the lab, the middle school students stirred a goopy mixture in plastic bowls with their hands, facial expressions from laughter to dismay playing across their faces. The instructors explained that the consistency of the mix changed as the speed at which they stirred it varied. Welcome to the world of polymers.

“It’s been a good day,” said Frontier Middle and High School teacher Donna Murphy, standing outside the room and watching her students. “They’ve had a math session, started a diesel machine, talked to an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper. They sang ‘Time to Discover’ from Little Einstein on the way down.”

The Frontier students were among about 800 seventh and eighth graders who attended Young Engineers Days and Scientists at Washington State Community College Thursday and Friday.

Down a hallway and through a couple of doors, a cluster of students stood around a massive diesel engine, taking turns revving it with a foot control.

Marietta Middle School student Breaunna Robinson said she’d been through a session exploring the characteristics of bubbles — and painting an image with them — and learned a bit about bugs from the Washington County Soil and Conservation display.

Seventh grade students from Frontier Local Schools experiment with a mixture to create polymers in a lab at Washington State Community College on Friday during the college’s annual Young Engineers and Scientists days. (Photo by Michael Kelly)

“This is cool, too,” she said, looking at the diesel, “but I’m really interested in medicine. I’d like to become a doctor.”

Her classmate Mikaiah Kinney said she’s thinking about a career in sports medicine.

Volunteer Mary Lou Moegling said it’s her 27th year conducting students around the YES event.

“Some of the presenters here, I had them on the tour as seventh graders,” she said. “It gives the kids a chance to see something they might like. It’s sort of a soft sell for the college, it’s a community activity hosted by them. And for the teachers, it a chance to connect some of these things to their classroom curriculum.”

In the mechanical engineering lab, instructor John Burgardt watched as Sophie Paschal, a Marietta Middle School seventh grader, carefully moved a robotic arm around.

Math instructor Timothy McKeny offers a hint to a math puzzle for seventh graders during Young Engineers and Scientists days at Washington State Community College Friday. (Photo by Michael Kelly)

“See, you can feel the precision in it, six motors moving simultaneously,” he said.

“That was pretty cool,” Paschal said afterward. “They’ve got a robotic dummy in the health sciences department, too.”

Although she found the day interesting, her sights are set on something outside technology.

“I want to become a lawyer,” she said.

Outside, Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper Lea Mikes spoke to a group of students about the science involved in her job, which included crash analysis, a math-heavy process. She offered advice about seat belts and sitting positions to avoid in a car equipped with air bags, then turned the students loose to have a look at her cruiser.

A seventh grade Marietta Middle School student watches a bubble land on the back of his hand during a session exploring the elasticity, surface tension, chemistry, light and geometry of bubbles conducted by Washington State Community College College Credit Plus instructor Amy Taylor. More than 800 students attended Young Engineers and Scientists days at the college Thursday and Friday. (Photo by Michael Kelly)

“I’ve done this for several years,” she said as the students swarmed the vehicle. “I enjoy it. The kids are always good, respectful, and they ask good questions.”

College faculty member Ashleigh Pennoch said it takes a team of 10 people to plan the event and another 15 volunteers, aside from the presenters, to pull it off. The presentations are made by different people over the course of the two days, she said.

“Each school is going to see a slightly different presentation,” she said.

The sponsors and presenters included more than two dozen businesses, agencies and organizations from the area.

Michael Kelly can be contacted at mkelly@mariettatimes.com.


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