West Point faculty, cadets teach engineering to local high schoolers
October 13, 2010
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Oct. 13, 2010) -- Faculty members from the Civil and Mechanical Engineering Department, cadets majoring in CME and local engineers took their expertise to Cornwall Central High School math classes Oct. 6 for the second annual Engineering Day.
The idea is to introduce math students to the engineering field through hands-on experiments and to promote the field of engineering. The idea began when Cornwall H.S. math teacher Kathleen Zammit received an e-mail from her niece who works at Lockheed Martin in Syracuse. Her niece spoke about her employer presenting engineering classes at local schools.
"With that e-mail, I contacted Kyle Snyder from Lochner Engineering in Newburgh and coordinator for the Hudson Valley American Society of Engineers," Zammit said. "I went on to coordinate with him regarding bringing in engineers to the school."
The idea was well received and after two years of meetings and developing the idea, Engineering Day became an annual event with a variety of engineering professionals and teachers coming into the school to inspire students.
"We are not getting enough people going into math fields," Maj. Chad Caldwell, CME instructor, said. "Last year was the first time we went to Cornwall High and because it was well received, they asked us back this year."
Class of 2011 Cadets Nick Reisweber and Dan Kitchell showed students in math teacher Julie Palumbo's junior algebra/trigonometry class how math is applied to everyday life and involved students in experiments to determine load and support using K'Nex construction toys to build a bridge supporting truss and determining tension and compression using foam or rubber tubes.
"Teaching is not as easy as you think," Kitchell said. "We are doing stuff we haven't covered since plebe year."
The cadets began by asking students what they thought engineering is and then went into trussed bridge discussions by asking students if they have seen any around the area. The senior cadets involved student Tom McMahon in a load-support experiment by having him place a number of textbooks on a K'Nex bridge truss, while the rest of the class tried to guess how many textbooks the bridge would hold.
Zammit said interest in engineering has increased. One student wrote to her for a recommendation to attend an engineering school.
"The kids really loved the classes and it's a wonderful way to develop interest in math and engineering," she said.
Palumbo said she had cadets visit her class last year and thinks it's a great way to get students more interested in math. Some of the math formulas have been covered in class, but Palumbo was concerned that her math class may be dull after the cadets left.
"I'm afraid tomorrow (the kids) are going to be bored," she said.