Lehigh University
Lehigh University


CHOICES & CANstruction: Engaging kids in the power of engineering and science


"Motivation is everything. You can do the work of two people, but you can't be two people. Instead, you have to inspire the next guy down the line and get him to inspire his people."

--Lee Iacocca '45

Lehigh Engineering students are organizing two separate events on Friday, February 25, for schoolkids from all over the Lehigh Valley and beyond to get a taste -- perhaps literally -- of what a future in science may have in store for them.

The events, the annual CANstruction Competition and the Charting Horizons and Opportunities in Careers in Engineering and Science (CHOICES) program, spark interest in science and engineering by giving younger students a chance to experience them in action.

CHOICES invites local middle school girls to Lehigh for fun activities that promote curiosity and interest in math, science, and engineering. This year's agenda includes programming robots to understand simple commands, and exploring the world of composite materials via testing the structural properties of chocolate and candy.

The event will also feature the Air Products Liquid Nitrogen (LIN) Ambassador program. he LIN Ambassadors -- Air Products & Chemicals, Inc., employees committed to educating the community about science -- will demonstrate cryogenic grinding and freezing techniques that can be used to make "LINcream." In just minutes, the LIN ambassadors create LINcream by pouring liquid nitrogen into traditional ice cream ingredients -- and then hand out some of the freshest ice cream around.

The big finale, and perennial favorite of the CHOICES girls, is the egg drop competition. Divided into teams, the girls are given 20 minutes to plan, design, and construct an apparatus that will safely land an egg dropped from the 3rd floor balcony of Lehigh's Iacocca Hall. The teams are provided with a large array of common items and materials such as cotton balls, bubble wrap, tape, newspaper, and various plastic containers. Judges review each project according to its use of budget, its originality, and its weight.

After the design and judging phases comes the launch. A CHOICES staffer announces each team's entry and then lets them fly -- to a cacophony of cheering from the teams assembled below.

Sixty girls from 12 different middles schools will be participating in the event alongside an equivalent number of female engineering students helping to lead and participate in each exercise.

CHOICES is organized by Lehigh's chapter of the Society of Women Engineers and supported by the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., and Professional Publications, Inc. The event runs from 8:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. on Feb. 25, at Lehigh's Iacocca Hall.

Lehigh and Broughal: It's CAN-tastic

The annual Lehigh Valley CANstruction will take place at Broughal Middle School from 12:30 to 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 25. CANstruction challenges teams to obtain donations of canned goods that they'll then use to create large artistic structures. The structures are then judged based on various criteria such as creativity and nutritional value of the canned goods used.

The CANstructures planned by the Lehigh-Broughal teams this year are as follows:
  • a giant can of soup made up of more than a thousand actual cans of soup;
  • an alien doll from the movie Toy Story; and,
  • cartoon character SpongeBob Squarepants.
These CANstructures will remain on display at Broughal for two weeks. After the display, all of the cans -- some 3370 in all -- will be donated to New Bethany Ministries food bank in South Bethlehem.

CANstruction events such as this occur all over the U.S. to raise awareness of hunger while generating canned-food donations for local charities. However, the Lehigh Valley event takes the event's mission a step further. As part of the competition, Lehigh's Rossin Junior Fellows -– the student-leadership organizations within Lehigh Engineering -- join up with students from Broughal Middle School to design and build the CANstructures, promoting interest among local kids in engineering design and technologies. The Lehigh and Broughal students team up to brainstorm their creations, map them out using Computer Aided Design technologies, and then carefully execute their designs on "build day."

The event is supported by the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Lehigh's Office of Student Affairs, Broughal Middle School, Redner's Warehouse Markets, Shop-Rite, and Wegmans Markets.

Story by Melissa Collins

Posted on Monday, February 21, 2011

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