YSU wants students to build on their learning



Freshmen get an early taste ofwhat engineeringis all about.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A marble rolls through a plastic pipe, snapping a mouse trap that pulls a string and releases water from a plastic bottle.
Jeremy Tumpak, Tom Calko, Kevin Davis and Stephen Timko, all freshmen engineering students at Youngstown State University, watch attentively.
The water cascades through three Styrofoam cups, weighing down a lever that releases another marble along a plastic track, tipping a row of dominoes and finally shooting off a small, cardboard airplane.
"Yes," Davis says, pumping his fist.
Two minutes, 59 seconds.
"That's pretty good," Timko says.
One hundred and sixty freshmen crowded the second-floor hallways in YSU's engineering building on Thursday, showing off creative contraptions produced as part of their introduction to engineering class.
The project -- to build a gadget that accomplishes a certain task in three minutes -- is designed to give first-year students an early taste of engineering, said Hazel Pierson, project coordinator.
"The core purpose is getting the students to see what engineering is all about, it's about putting a practical application to things ... in a fun, very creative way, " she said.
Part of movement: Now in its second year, the project is part of a move by engineering schools nationwide to get students involved early in their college careers with hands-on engineering activities, said Dr. Charles Stevens, YSU engineering dean.
Stevens said students at many schools take a core curriculum of grinding math and science courses as freshmen and sophomores, and students at some schools don't even see an engineering faculty member until the second half of their sophomore years. That led to many students dropping out.
The trend today, Pierson said, is to get engineering students involved as soon as possible in applying the math and science concepts they're learning. "We don't want them to lose sight of where all of this is headed," she said.
Students, divided into teams of four or five, worked as many as 40 to 60 hours over four weeks designing and testing complex devices reminiscent of Milton Bradley's wacky "Mouse Trap" board game.
Using bowling balls, marbles, golf balls, bells, sand, water, mouse traps, plastic pipe and various other materials not exceeding $10, the student-built apparatuses were designed to run as close to three minutes as possible.
"Please don't wait till the last minutes to do this; it isn't as easy as you might think," Pierson warns students on the assignment sheet for the project.
"It was really fun to do," Davis, of Warren Township, said Thursday as he set up his team's contraption. "It gave us a little bit of a challenge. It took a lot of planning."
"It's pretty interesting just putting everything together and seeing how it works," said Tumpak, of Howland.

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