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Orchard turned the first day back after Christmas break upside down — and around and around — thanks to hands-on engineering activities.
Alex Sukup, a mechanical engineering major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, spent the day at Orchard Public School. After a TED-style talk on engineering topics, she then led hands-on activities, including building roller coasters with the first- through third-graders.
“This is a lot of fun,” Sukup said after the roller coaster activity. “I’m with college kids all of the time, so to see the reactions of elementary students has been a lot of fun.”
Sukup said the program uses STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to educate the students. Other topics during the day included earthquakes with fourth- through sixth-graders and wind energy with the junior high and physics students.
Sukup, who is a junior from Norfolk, was invited to Orchard after sixth-grade teacher Jana Wilhelm learned of the Engineering Ambassador’s Network program over the summer at a science teacher convention.
Wilhelm said it’s a great opportunity for students to learn about engineering, especially from a female since it previously was a male-dominated field.
Sukup said she enjoys the program because it introduces so many youth to the career field.
“I want kids to be interested in engineering,” she said. “I never knew about engineering as a kid, so as long as they get the idea that science is an option for them with college, that’s really important.”
Wilhelm also planned for Sukup to assist several of her students who are constructing a stand for grow lights. While she has one, Orchard received a grant for three more grow lights over the holiday break and will receive them soon. She said the students will use PVC pipes to support the lights after receiving advice from Sukup at the end of the STEM-filled day.
“It’s been an incredible first day back to school,” Wilhelm said. “It’s really very energizing for all of us.”