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Just Desserts: Mechanical Engineering Meets Computing Outreach

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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

Exemplary Outreach Programs

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.822.1 - 15.822.14



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Paper Authors

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Karen Davis University of Cincinnati

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

Just Desserts: Mechanical Engineering Meets Computing Outreach

Karen C. Davis, Ph.D. Stephanie Heil Allison Mayborg Adam Pulskamp

University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH 45221-0030

Abstract – This paper describes high school STEM lessons created by three undergraduate Mechanical Engineering students. The students participated in a classroom outreach program called Computer Science Investigations (CSI: Cincinnati) as part of the Mentoring for Connections to Computing effort funded by the National Science Foundation’s Broadening Participation in Computing program. The CSI program performs computing-themed pre-college outreach with a team of undergraduates who deliver original lessons with hands-on activities and interact with high school students in their classroom. This paper describes three lessons: (1) pipe design layout based on CAD drawings for an industrial bakery kitchen, (2) computer vision systems using optical illusions and cupcake decorating, and (3) manufacturing of plastic pellets using the creation of pixel cookies as a hands-on classroom activity. The undergraduate mentors leverage their industrial and academic experiences to create the lessons and act as role models for college and professional success. Evaluation of the activities includes a mapping to academic content standards, student interest surveys, and mentors’ reflections on their experiences.

1. Introduction

The Computer Science Investigations (CSI: Cincinnati) project brings undergraduates in engineering and computing-related fields into urban STEM classrooms to interact with and teach high school students. CSI: Cincinnati is funded under the National Science Foundation’s Broadening Participation in Computing program and its goals include: (1) introducing underrepresented populations of high school students to computing topics, field of study, and the profession in a fun but challenging way, and (2) training computing undergraduates to mentor youth and teach computing topics. The team of 7 undergraduate mentors and a professor visited a Cincinnati Public School district high school mathematics class. The class of twenty 11th and 12th graders was 50% female, 73% African- American, and 8% Hispanic. The team developed and taught 7 lessons that related computing topics to everyday life and showcased career opportunities. The lessons were aligned with Ohio Department of Education Academic Content Standards for math, science, and technology [1]. For each visit, one student conducted the lesson while the rest of the team members sat with small groups of students to interact informally and assist with the lesson activities. Materials developed for activities include an online repository, lesson plans, supply lists, activity descriptions, and other supporting documents [2, 3]. In this paper, we present lessons developed by three Mechanical Engineering majors in the areas of pipe design layout, computer vision systems, and plastic production, based on the students’ professional experiences. The students acquired the necessary background for their lessons while participating in the University of Cincinnati’s co-operative education (co-op) program. In addition, two of the students attended the 2009 ACM SIGCSE conference and the CS Unplugged [4] workshop. All of the CSI activities are unplugged because they are designed for delivery in a classroom, not a computer lab.

Davis, K. (2010, June), Just Desserts: Mechanical Engineering Meets Computing Outreach Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15806

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