ARCHIVED - NRC Engineers Participate in Science Outreach
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April 03, 2003— Ottawa, Ontario
In celebration of National Engineering Week (March 1-9), NRC recently completed the 3rd Annual Student Engineering Challenge, which involved more than 580 Ottawa-area Grade 5 and 6 students. The event provides students with a unique hands-on experience to address engineering problems as a team with the support of engineers who have volunteered their time. "Watching the students generating ideas, going through the trial and error process, and having to go back to the drawing board certainly puts in perspective the fact that one has to keep an open mind in all processes and gives new credence to "thinking outside the box," commented Guy Felio, a Challenge engineer and Special Advisor to NRC's Vice-President, Technology and Industry Support.
The theme this year involved the construction of an Arctic Provision Transporter (APT) intended to drop supplies to an Arctic expedition. Each student team built a vehicle designed to carry and protect its cargo (a raw egg) from a 1.75 metre drop down an elevated ramp. APTs had to get close to the target on the floor below and with the egg intact. Creativity and innovation in product presentation were also evaluated.
Harry Baker, an Evaluation Officer with the NRC Institute for Research in Construction (NRC-IRC) and Challenge engineer, noted that, at first, student teams found it difficult to take a structured approach to the project. Baker cited examples such as preparing design drawings, or spending time thinking about uses for the construction materials. "Most students wanted to jump right in to the construction," he noted. But Baker also noted the progress teams made in designing the APTs. "For most of the teams, there was a satisfaction that they had come up with a workable idea and had completed constructing their APT. One team began a square shaped APT that would not move off the ramp and they modified it to have a more cylindrical shape. Another team struggled with wheels and axles and made modifications right up until the final test."
Fellow Challenge participant David Dudzinski, a Research Officer with the NRC Institute for Aerospace Research, also noted significant changes. "The majority of final designs were not what the student's originally proposed. Also, the teams seemed to be working together more near the end of the project than at the beginning," he said.
The Challenge involves a number of important themes, such creativity, innovation and problem solving. Dudzinski stressed the importance of these attributes. "The research process clearly requires creativity, innovation and problem solving and this is why NRC exists. I believe that creativity and innovation cannot be taught, they must instead be encouraged through programs, such as the engineering Challenge."
Looking forward to next year, NRC engineers involved in the Challenge raised several suggestions, including making the event a Cross-Canada challenge, an Egg Catapult Contest and a Pasta Bridge Challenge, using uncooked spaghetti, white glue and ordinary sewing thread.
NRC appreciated the contributions of its partners throughout the Challenge. The Canada Science and Technology Museum, the Professional Engineers of Ontario - Ottawa Chapter, the AGDA Group, the Ottawa Carleton Catholic School Board and Carleton University's Student Engineering Society all contributed to making this Science Promotion Program a success.
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