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Using Model Building As A Means To Introduce High School Students To Engineering

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.1111.1 - 6.1111.5

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Paper Authors

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F. Andrew Wolfe

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

Using Model Building as a Means to Introduce High School Students to Engineering F. Andrew Wolfe, Ph.D., P.E.


During the summer of 2000, four Union College students and eight Schenectady High School students built models for an exhibit about the Erie Canal. The models were built from original engineering drawings of the structure and were built to scale. The Schenectady High School students were all part of the Science and Technology Entry Program for minority and disadvantaged students. The four college students were each in charge of one model and several of the STEP students. The model building began with scale drawings of each model taken from copies of the original Erie Canal Structure drawings. This work took 3 weeks to complete and showed the STEP students how to read plans, use a scale and draw plans. The next seven weeks were used to build the models. Three models, a double chamber lock, an aqueduct, and a change bridge, were built constructed out of wood and one, a lift bridge, was constructed from metal. Each model was carefully constructed and detailed. The illusion of stone work was created using spray paint and felt tip markers. The students worked together through the entire process, learning how the structures themselves were built, and learning how the models needed to be constructed to mimic the actual structure. The models are currently on exhibit in the Nott Memorial as part of Union College’s exhibit on the Erie Canal. Although no future home has been determined for the models, the State Museum of New York is interested in using the models for future exhibits. At the end of the summer the STEP students had learned about engineering and had each help complete a museum quality model of a structure of the Erie Canal.


The 175th anniversary of the opening of the Erie Canal was celebrated at Union College in the Fall of 2000. The celebration included rare original drawings of the canal structures, painting, memorabilia, and maps of the Canal. An integral part of the exhibit was the four scale models built by Union College and Schenectady High School students during the summer of 2000.

Wolfe, F. A. (2001, June), Using Model Building As A Means To Introduce High School Students To Engineering Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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