By: Keona Conroy-Humphrey
Building a marshmallow launcher or creating an electronic walking tour of Lanai City may not sound like engineering activities; however, both competition-based projects have provided valuable hands on experience in engineering for LHES middle school students this past school year.
Engineering a marshmallow launcher
For Tiffany Fernandez, Jasmine and Keona Humphrey, and Adriana Sanchez, building a marshmallow launcher for a regional competition gave them insight into what engineers might experience on a daily basis.
The Fab 4, the name of the all-girls engineering team, learned about Engineering in the Middle last fall. The annual event, supported by the Women in Technology program and funded by the Department of Education, challenged middle school students to construct a bridge from popsicle sticks or to build a marshmallow launcher.
The Lanai students took on the marshmallow launcher challenge and began working on the project by sketching out a design.
While building the device, the team learned that there is often trial and error during the engineering process and design does not always function the way it is intended. For example, it was necessary to change the length and size of the bands used in the marshmallow launcher and a U-shaped piece of wood had to be added to the design for stability.
At the November 2013 Engineering in the Middle event, the Fab 4 competed against other middle school students from around Maui County and took first place.
As a result of the win, the students were sponsored to compete in the Junior Engineering Expo at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The Fab 4 had a strong showing at the statewide competition and placed fourth out of 13 teams.
Putting Lanai City on the Electronic Map
Following the Junior Engineering Expo, sisters Keona and Jasmine Humphrey began working on a project for the Hawaii STEM Conference, which is a Maui-based learning event that brings together up to 600 students from across the state to share their technology knowledge and to make a difference in their respective communities.
Keona and Jasmine used ESRI Global Information System (GIS) software to create an electronic version of an existing walking tour of Lanai City. The sisters placed first in the Storytelling with Maps competition.