Published: May 21, 2013

ChBE graduate students hosted 87 middle school students on May 11 for a Science & Engineering Field Day at the Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building (JSCBB). Students traveled from across the Denver-metro area, as far north as Loveland and as far south as Littleton, to take part in the day’s activities.

"The goal of the day was to raise awareness and enthusiasm of science and engineering through fun and engaging hands-on activities” explained fifth year graduate student and event organizer Tania Tauer.

The Field Day was coordinated by eight GAANN Fellows, Simon Pang, Ally Robinson, Alan Izar, Nick Chisholm, Josh Mabry, Aaron Palumbo, Rudy Kahsar, and Tania Tauer. The day was split into four 1-hour sessions, each exposing students to a different challenge faced by practicing scientists and engineers.

For example, Simon Pang and Ally Robinson added an economic twist to a traditional Tower Building challenge. “We gave the students a limited budget with which to purchase building materials (i.e. toothpicks, marshmallows, and gum drops). This led to some unique building designs and interesting group interactions as students ran out of certain materials,” Simon explained.

Additionally, students helped to solve a crime mystery through a forensics activity, where they used chemical analysis and observation skills to identify a mystery substance that was the key to solve the crime.

In the “Energy Exploration” session, participants probed a variety of energy generating devices (i.e. wind turbines, solar panels, hand cranks, and batteries) to identify how power output varies between different energy sources.

Finally, students explored two Chemical & Biological Engineering labs. In Associate Professor Stephanie Bryant’s lab, participants formed different types of gels in the bone of a cow to learn about materials used toward cartilage and tissue engineering applications.

One student stated, “I really liked that we got to use some of the real tools that the engineers in the labs use, and that we got to participate in an activity that was really professional.”

The students then learned about catalysis in Associate Professor Will Medlin’s lab. Medlin graduate student Rudy Kahsar burned a series of metals that emit various colored flames and discussed how and why material properties vary between different elements (top right photo).

Another student described the lab tours as, “Awesome! They really went through step-by-step what you could do in the lab and how it helps everyday science."  

An additional 12 Chemical Engineering graduate students volunteered to assist the organizers to make the first annual Science & Engineering Field Day a success!

The event organizers would like to specifically thank the funders of this great day, US Department of Education’s GAANN program, the United Government of Graduate Students, and the Engineering Excellence Fund, whose financial support allowed the event to be free for all student participants!

The department strives to translate science and engineering education beyond our walls and we look forward to continuing this successful outreach event in the future.