Students showcase work at Science Center Day, held in early March
As a member of the Mizzou Racing – SAE team, Les Burke says the team wants to share its love of race cars.
“Race cars are really cool and something we want to share with as many people as possible,” Burke said.
Burke, a student in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Carbondale, IL, took his love of racecars to St. Louis on March 7 as part of a group of 26 Mizzou Engineering students who showcased their work and research at the University of Missouri Science Center Day, held at the Saint Louis Science Center. This family-friendly event drew over 4,200 people, and attendees were able to participate in hands-on activities and learn about what engineers can accomplish.
“The event was a great place to show kids the end product of what we do as engineers, providing a very tangible item to show why we chose to receive an education in a STEM field,” Burke said.
The Science Center Day was a collaboration among MU Extension, Mizzou and the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Kids, parents and the general public were encouraged to learn about STEM-related fields. This event was an opportunity to recruit potential students for the race team, according to Burke, but also is a chance to recruit for Engineering as a whole.
Sarah Traub, interim director of off-campus operations for MU Extension, helped coordinate this event as part of Extension’s “Mizzou to You” campaign. This campaign’s goal is to bring a similar program like the Science Center Day to each of the eight MU Extension regions by 2022. Traub said this was a very successful event for everyone involved.
“There were lots of positive comments from both participants who visited the Science Center and those working the exhibits from the universities,” Traub said, “I also think events such as these are very important for our students. It is an incredible learning experience for a university student to explain their exhibit and research to the general public.”
The Engineers Without Borders group also participated in the Science Center Day. Martin Spies, also a mechanical and aerospace engineer major from Minneapolis, MN, helped lead the group’s exhibit, which mimicked their current well-water system project in El Romerillo, Ecuador. A participant could turn on their 3-D printed translucent water pump and learn the functions of that pump impeller as it spins within the pump.
“Our group gained a lot of hands-on building experience that we haven’t yet encountered in our engineering curriculum,” Spies said. “We learned a lot about working in groups for technical projects, like overcoming design expectations versus realities, working with 3D printed materials, and bringing together the different design inputs of our engineers to create the working model.”
For the SAE team’s exhibit, they brought last year’s racecar to the event. They let participants sit in the car and brought video of the car running on one of its test days. The team answered questions about competitions, the design process and the car’s specifications.
“I feel like we made a lot of people aware of Formula SAE and our team in particular,” Burke said. “More kids are now aware of how cool engineering is and it might encourage them to work in a STEM career. It’s very rewarding to let kids know that they, too, could learn how to design and build racecars once they get to college.”