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Engaging Young Students to Construction

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Construction Session 3: Curriculum

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Paper Authors


Philip A. Dunn Jr. P.E. University of Maine

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Philip Dunn is a Professor in the Construction Management Technology Program at the University of Maine and serves as the coordinator of the program. He has been with the University for 13 years after having worked 20 years with the Maine Department of Transportation. He is very active in his community serving in several professional, fraternal, and community boards. He is a licensed Professional Engineer in Maine. He is married with 2 children.

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Engaging Young Students to Construction

How do we get students interested in construction and ultimately construction education? Students form their interests in their school years beginning as early as elementary school. As they progress in their educations, students are encouraged to seek higher education for varied professions. Construction offers a challenging and secure future to those who choose to enter into practice. However, it is a career that is often overlooked by students.

As part of engineering forums offered in our area for regional schools, we set up an informational table. We engage students as young as elementary age by having “a hands- on” activity to build a tower as tall as they can using materials that are supplied. This tower is built from spaghetti and marshmallows. The young students have seen these materials in everyday use, but had never tried to build something with such items. Guidelines are minimal and students can use as much supply as they wish. Through self-discovery, they find out what the best shapes are to allow the structure to stand. They learn about tension and compression; they learn about brittle and malleable substances. Students readily adapt to make the towers work. Students of all ages can relate to the activity and can build with minimal direction.

Anecdotal observations though 10 years of implementation show interesting results. These towers engage students and their parents to build the tallest structure. This simple project interests students and begins the dialog at young ages as to what engineers design and professional contractors build.

This paper will discuss the activity and how it is implemented. Though only anecdotal, the author will discuss observations of young student behavior and how the project is received at school events.

Dunn, P. A. (2016, June), Engaging Young Students to Construction Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26981

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