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Enhancing Outreach Through A Summer Hands On Engineering Workshop

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Civil Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.512.1 - 15.512.13



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Paper Authors

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Robert Rabb United States Military Academy

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John Rogers United States Military Academy

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Enhancing Outreach through a Summer Hands-On Engineering Workshop


The United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point conducts a week long outreach program to approximately 800 high school juniors every summer. Students enjoy the academic offerings and see USMA’s programs in action through current students who help coordinate the seminar activities. The overall goal is to give potential students an inside look at the institution’s student life in all areas to include academics, athletics, and leadership. Seminar attendees select their courses from a variety of offerings from all academic departments at the institution. This paper describes the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering’s program. The goal of this particular workshop is to give the attending students an overview of different disciplines of engineering and enlighten them that engineering is fun and practical. Classes are small, and our instructors are very engaging and helpful. Students engage in hands-on experiences, including many in the institution’s modern computer and laboratory facilities. They attend lessons in engineering fundamentals and are presented with potential, real world problems. The students apply the design process to solve these problems in small teams. In this two-part workshop they participate in this process, constructing their design. For mechanical engineering, students will be presented with a real-world challenge and have the opportunity to design, build and test their solution using Lego motors and pieces. The challenge simulates delivering much-needed supplies to people stranded on a hillside. The students will learn engineering fundamentals about torque, power and gear trains and be able to directly apply those concepts to the design. This workshop also combines an overview of what mechanical engineering is and what type of problems mechanical engineers can be expected to solve. For civil engineering part of the workshop, the students discuss the civil engineers’ role in planning, designing, building, operating and maintaining the nation’s infrastructure. Students will use computer modeling and simulation tools to design, build and test a truss bridge. Students will also design and build a bridge out of K-nex components, and load the bridge to failure in a competition. Surveyed participants overwhelmingly praise the hands-on learning.


According to the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), 15-year-old U.S. students ranked at the bottom third for both mathematics and science compared to all other countries that participated.1 The U.S. has seemingly fallen behind other developed countries, in educating the students to succeed in the math and science curriculum. Many fields of engineering seem ambiguous or obscure to many students in K-12 institutions. In addition, the more familiar fields of math and science are looked upon as difficult and unattainable. Their peers in other countries consistently outperform students in the United States. Some reasons that many students have shifted away from engineering is an incomplete picture or understanding of the engineering profession and a loss of interest in science and math.2 Unless a student has a relative who is an engineer, it is doubtful that he or she will see a role model who can expose them to the interesting opportunities in engineering.3

Rabb, R., & Rogers, J. (2010, June), Enhancing Outreach Through A Summer Hands On Engineering Workshop Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15944

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