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College of Engineering at Columbia’s Twilight Festival

The College of Engineering is launching catapult and building-block arch challenges at Columbia’s Twilight Festival to introduce youngsters to the field.

The college began participating for the first time last month in the Twilight Festival, held each Thursday in June and September in the city’s downtown district. College leaders plan to take part in all four of the festival’s September showings, said Laura Forbes, engineering college recruiter and festival exhibit organizer.

“We’re finding this is a great way to give children a hands–on introduction to engineering,” Forbes said. “They might be more likely to consider a career in engineering if they have a chance to see how much fun engineering can be.”

Summer fest–goers were able to see how engineers turn potential energy into motion by trying out a pair of handmade catapults the engineering exhibit featured. The concept came easily to Isabel Fagre, a 7–year–old Columbia resident who won the college’s trademark green Slinky prize for hitting the catapult’s target.

“I just pulled it (the lever) out and let it go,” Fagre said.

Other youngsters learned how shape contributes to structural stability by piecing together the college’s building–block catenary arches, modeled on the shape a chain takes when it’s held loosely at both ends. Figuring out which piece went where was difficult at times, but it was fun to see the arch come together, said 6–year–old Sam Schiltz of Ashland, who with his dad, Paul Schiltz, built one of the four–foot foam spans.

Forbes said the Twilight Festival exhibit represents the college’s newest effort to interest youngsters in engineering by showing them what engineers actually work with and do. Mizzou Engineering’s annual summer camps, high school competition day and Engineers’ Week open house are other activities the college sponsors in hopes of recruiting more young engineers, she said.

Whether or not they ultimately become engineers, young students lined up during the June festivals to enjoy Mizzou Engineering’s demonstrations.

“It’s just fun,” summed up Gabriel Gassmann, a 10–year–old Columbia resident who earned a catapult challenge prize.