News4 Anchor/Weatherman Larry Green And CU-Boulder Engineering Professor Team Up For 'ABCs Of Engineering'

Published: Oct. 10, 2001


The University of Colorado at Boulder and NEWS4 are teaming up for a second consecutive year of science-centered educational programming this fall, bringing engineering concepts to third- through fifth-graders in a weeklong program titled "The ABCs of Engineering."

From Oct. 22 through Oct. 26, NEWS4's Larry Green will explore the basics of aerospace, mechanical, civil, chemical and electrical engineering with the help of CU engineering faculty member Janet deGrazia.

The five segments will air during NEWS4's 4 p.m. newscasts so that Colorado schoolchildren from participating schools can watch the segments and follow the curriculum, which was mailed to schools in early September. Like last year's series, the engineering program will feature daily passwords that kids can call or email NEWS4 to win prizes.

Both the TV segments and the curriculum are designed to get kids excited about science and engineering, and to help teachers with ready-to-use lesson plans. The TV segments feature short demonstrations, which include some of the same experiments the teachers and students will do in their classes.

The five engineering lessons also are standards-based, following the Colorado Model Content Standards for science so that teachers can incorporate the lessons into their existing coursework, deGrazia said.

On Day One, students learn about Newton's Laws of Motion, which Green and deGrazia demonstrate by showing what happens when they place an airfoil in a wind tunnel. In their classes, students will find out how to make pencil rockets with their teachers, learning about aerodynamics and aerospace engineering in the process.

Day Two covers Newton's Second Law, which says "the force required to make an object move is equal to its mass times its acceleration."

To illustrate, Larry Green cruises on the "mini-Baja" car designed and built by CU engineering students. But in their classrooms, teachers and schoolkids will build their own "Newton car" from wooden blocks, rubber bands, string and fishing sinkers, using instructions provided in deGrazia's teacher curriculum.

Students will learn that the distance their Newton cars travel depends on the number of rubber bands they use and the size of the blocks knocked off their cars during the experiment.

Kids also will make marshmallow-and-toothpick buildings to learn about compression and tension, clean tarnish from silver to learn about reduction-oxidation or "redox" and assemble fruit-and-vegetable batteries for a lesson on resistance and conductivity.

One of the goals of the series is to demystify science and engineering, which is heavily science- and math-based and also very visible in the built world all around us, deGrazia said.

"When I tell people I'm an engineer, they assume that I speak a language that they can't understand," she said. "But it's really not that difficult to understand once you know some of the basic concepts involved.

"Those basic concepts are what we try to communicate to kids through CU's outreach programs and through this program with Channel 4."

For CU-Boulder, the television series provides a way to bring some of its educational outreach programs to a much larger audience than they normally reach through small groups of schoolchildren visiting campus. The series also is aimed at promoting interest in the sciences and a love of learning among schoolkids.

For NEWS4, working with CU to bring educational programming to its newscasts and into Colorado schools is a perfect fit with the station's long-standing commitment in support of public education.

"We love kids," said Marv Rockford, NEWS4 general manager. "NEWS4 has always supported local schools and we are proud to be part of a program that really reaches out to our community and helps Colorado kids prepare for their futures in such a positive way."

For more information about "The ABCs of Engineering" call (303) 861-4444 or visit the NEWS4 Web site at

"The ABCs of Engineering"

Oct. 22-26

KCNC Channel 4

Oct. 22 Aerospace Engineering

Professor deGrazia and Channel 4 anchor Larry Green demonstrate principles of thrust and drag by placing an airfoil in a wind tunnel. Students make pencil rockets in their science classes to learn about aerodynamics.

Oct. 23 Mechanical Engineering

Demonstration of the "mini-Baja" super go-cart and the rock-climbing cam. Students make a mousetrap car in their science classes to learn about car design.

Oct. 24 Civil Engineering

Demonstrations of compression, tension and resonance, showing their importance in the design of bridges. Students make a marshmallow-and-toothpick building in class to learn about compression and tension and how engineers design to compensate for these forces.

Oct. 25 Chemical Engineering

Demonstration of "redox" reactions, including one that removes tarnish from silver, and a dehydration reaction that creates carbon. Students make silver-tarnish remover in class to study "redox."

Oct. 26 Electrical Engineering

Demonstration of how electricity works, showing resistance in copper and steel wires. Students make a fruit and vegetable battery in class to study resistance and conductivity.