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Pennsylvania high schoolers find STEM fuel at Russ College workshops

Pete Shooner | Jun 20, 2016
Pennsylvania high schoolers at Russ College STEM workshop
Photo by Ashley Stottlemyer

Pennsylvania high schoolers find STEM fuel at Russ College workshops

Pete Shooner | Jun 20, 2016

Photo by Ashley Stottlemyer

Ohio University’s Russ College of Engineering and Technology welcomed more than 30 Pennsylvania high school students to campus on Friday for a series of hands-on workshops as part of the Upward Bound Math and Science (UBMS) program administered by Pennsylvania State University (PSU).

UBMS students hail from urban high schools and are selected to participate based on their ability and special interest in the STEM fields. During the multiyear program, students receive academic guidance, engage in active research projects at PSU, and visit the region’s engineering colleges for events like Friday’s workshops at OHIO.

"It's wonderful to work with a group of high school students who are already so committed to going into a STEM field,” Russ College Director of Multicultural Experiences Jody Markley said. “It was an honor to be able to give them a taste of all of the opportunities the Russ College has for them in engineering and technology, and we hope that they left OHIO's campus with a real taste of how they can create for good."

The students engaged with Russ College faculty and students on topics including lean manufacturing and ergonomics, roller coaster design, computer aided design, and 3D printing.

In one workshop focusing on chemical, biomolecular and biomedical engineering, students learned to operate small cars fueled by chemical reactions – dubbed “chem-e-cars,” which Russ College freshmen use in their introductory chemical engineering classes.

“You’re going to run a car using nothing but water electrolysis and an H2 reaction,” Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Monica Burdick explained to the group, adding that their ultimate goal was to manipulate the reaction in such a way as to create just enough energy for the car travel precisely four feet.

With the help of recent graduate Nicole Sova, BSCHE ’16, and chemical engineering senior Graham Warne, the students “charged” their cars with hydrogen using battery-powered electrolysis, measured the charge, then tested the car to see how far it would travel.

After repeated tests, Josue Garcia, a junior at Reading High School, knew he was homing in on the target distance.

“I had a couple tries that were way too long, so each time I knew I had to cut back to get close to the four feet,” Garcia said. “I say two L’s is a W – if you lose, as long as you learned something, it’s a win.”

Burdick said the goal of the workshop, beyond showing that chemical engineering can be fun, was to illustrate how hands-on experiments can be useful to solving big problems like designing alternative energy sources.

“Experiments are a big part of what we all do – gathering data, making models, getting results,” Burdick said. “So no matter if these students choose to go into mechanical engineering or civil engineering, these same principles will apply.”