Engineering Adventures introduces STEM concepts

Community News

Kids working on project

MPC's Marketing and Transportation Engineering (M&TE) organization is introducing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) concepts to hundreds of Hancock County, Ohio, middle school students through its Engineering Adventures program.

Created in 2014, the mission of Engineering Adventures is to inspire middle school students to pursue interests in math and science by showing students the value of science and technology in today’s society. M&TE engineers and project control specialists strive to show middle school students how a STEM career could empower them to impact the health, happiness and safety of our world.

The program is taught during two half-day sessions. During the first session, M&TE employees introduce the students to Newton’s laws of motion. Students are taught engineering principles of planning, designing, construction and redesign.

During the second session, students are introduced to roller coaster engineering topics, including kinetic energy, potential energy and momentum. The students are divided into teams with the goal of planning and building a functional roller coaster. The teams are provided three types of marbles to represent the car on the roller coaster: glass marble (normal car), wooden marble (empty car) and steel marble (full car). From materials such as foam pipe, text books, duct tape, calculators and measuring tape, the students develop their creations. Scientific calculations are completed on each finished roller coaster, scoring them on creativity, function and performance.

The M&TE employees also take the time to connect how the program relates to MPC’s business, comparing pipelines to roller coasters and product flows up and down through facilities.

According to Kathryn Holbrook, project engineer II and a member of the Engineering Adventures leadership team, students tackle the project differently. “The kids really have fun with the project. It breaks up the typical school day, is educational, and the creativity we have seen is fun.”

Russ Tindall, project engineer II, who recently coordinated a session at Saint Michael School, agreed. “The students have a good time and are competitive. They consider what it takes to win and what they would want the roller coaster to do as a rider.”

Feedback from participating schools has also been positive. “The Engineering Adventures program was phenomenal,” said Cindy Moening, middle school math teacher at Saint Michael School. “This program was a great benefit to our students. Instead of sitting through class, they were up and involved. It also was amazing to witness the wonderful teamwork this project required. Students need to learn how to work with partners, listen to others and problem solve when something goes wrong. The roller coaster activity does all this and more.”

Saint Michael Middle School Science Teacher Mary Julien-Crew agreed. “I was very pleased with the teamwork I witnessed in these groups. They worked cooperatively and collaboratively. Some of their designs were very creative; it was easy to pick up on the enthusiasm they had for the experience. I sincerely appreciate the time and effort the M&TE employees put into this; we are already looking forward to next year.”

Middle school students at Glenwood, Donnell, Liberty-Benton and Saint Michael have participated in the program, with Van Buren on the slate for next school year. The program has been so well received that a second program incorporating a fan boat activity focusing on buoyancy, simple circuits and Ohm’s law was created with Glenwood completing this program. A third program using fan cars is under development.

“I love this program. We didn’t have a STEM activity like this when I was in middle school,” said Holbrook. “We are able to tap that creativity pocket in the students so they understand the concept, ask good questions and have that light bulb moment where it all comes together.”