Army engineers work with students to test their math, problem-solving skills
Shin Cousens (from left), Zachary Cassou andAllison McMerney select cans for their trial "tin canstruction" to be built at the Wiesbaden Commissary June 4.

WIESBADEN, Germany - Wiesbaden Middle School students are gearing up to put their engineering, math and problem-solving skills to the test at the Wiesbaden Commissary June 4.

As part of a Corps of Engineers, Europe District-sponsored project, eighth-graders will be constructing a replica of the Corps of Engineer castle out of cans.

Similar to the Canstruction competition held in the United States, the partnership project is intended to challenge students to apply their academic know-how to a real-world situation, said Justin Ward, public affairs officer for the Europe District. "The idea is to tie in what they're learning in school."

Katie Ergenekon, one of the engineer mentors for the project, explained that in the United States Canstruction is sponsored by major engineering corporations for middle school to university-level students. "People donate cans," she said, and these are normally given away to charity following the Canstruction competitions.

The project was launched after the Corps of Engineers volunteers visited the Wiesbaden Middle School's geometry class, described the challenge and "gave a class on the deliberate planning process," said middle school algebra and science teacher David Bruce. After working through the geometry of building a construction out of cans, Bruce said the students designed an isometric figure on paper. ... "The biggest thing here is the spatial sense - part of spatial reasoning that they learn in geometry.

"With the help of the engineers we're taking the mathematics and applying them in a real-world situation," said Bruce.

On May 12 three members of the middle school team - Zachary Cassou, Shin Cousens and Allison McMerney - spent an exploratory couple of hours on a test run at the commissary trying to identify the best materials for the project. With advice from engineer mentors Ergenekon and Marcelo Maier, and commissary manager Kevin Kegler, the three students selected various cans to see how well they fit together and what visual impression they made when put together as one of the castle's towers.

As the tower rose, the students were quickly able to assess various problems needing solving such as how the different colored cans fit together and how much space they would need for the entire structure.

"We came to assist them," said Ergenekon "We're trying to establish an interest in science and engineering and to show them that it can be fun."
As the initial launch of the event in Wiesbaden, Ergenekon said the engineers were hoping the competition could be expanded to other schools in the future.

"We wanted to start out small since this is the first year of this project," added Bruce, explaining that only a few students taking higher level math at the middle school level were invited to participate. "These kids will be taking calculus as 11th-graders," he said.

Page last updated Tue June 1st, 2010 at 05:58