Middle School Students Visit Stevens, Learn About its History

5/15/2014

Stevens Institute of Technology recently hosted 65 middle school children, providing tours of the beautiful campus and highlighting its rich history while educating the students on what an engineer does.

The students, seventh-and-eighth graders, all live in Hoboken, New Jersey, and enjoyed an afternoon of learning about the university and its programs. For some students, it was their first time on campus, and they were amazed to learn that the Carnegie Building is named for American steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, and that two familiar inventions come from Stevens alumni: the mobile, created by artist Alexander Calder, Class of 1919, and bubble wrap©, invented by Alfred W. Fielding, Class of 1939.

Adam Scribner, science professional development specialist for the Center for Innovation and Engineering in Science Education (CIESE) at Stevens, began the visit by asking the students what they thought an engineer does. After a few answers, such as how engineers create and plan, Scribner told them they were partially correct.

“An engineer designs and solves problems,’’ Scribner said.

Stevens student leaders were on hand to help guide the children as they participated in a CIESE activity. They were divided into small teams and each team was given four pieces of rope and a bicycle inner tube. Each team had to work together to design and build a device to pour popcorn kernels from one container into another. To make it more fun and to explain that it could not be touched by human hand, Scribner called it “toxic popcorn.’’

“Engineers work together to come up with a solution to a problem,’’ Scribner said. “We do that through communication, so talk to each other. Go back and redesign if you need to.’’

After several attempts, the teams were able to complete the task. 

While touring Davidson Laboratory, the renowned marine research laboratory, the students got to see how sailboat testing is done in the high-speed towing tank. Davidson Lab works closely with the Department of Homeland Security and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on projects including sophisticated modeling and forecasting of wind, tide, current and wave conditions to better assist preparations for and response to storms, floods and other emergencies on water. The first Stevens towing tank was constructed and opened in 1935. Campus tour guides pointed out some of the artifacts relating to sailing in the room.

During a walking tour, the guides highlighted the campus buildings and provided a brief history of Stevens and its relationship with Hoboken. For instance, Edwin A. Stevens Hall, built in 1870 and also known as the “A’’ Building, is the oldest academic building on campus.

“By all accounts, the 65 students from HJSHS had a great time at Stevens yesterday and learned much about the school in a way they enjoyed. Thank you on behalf of the students and staff for your effort in putting together a great experience for the students,” said Dr. Mark Toback, Superintendent, Hoboken Public Schools.

“We were delighted that middle school students from Hoboken joined us for a fun and engaging day of learning about engineering and its contributions to society,” said Beth McGrath, Chief of Staff, Office of the President. “Stevens has a longstanding partnership with Hoboken schools, encompassing federally-funded teacher training programs impacting more than 250 teachers, summer science and technology camps for Hoboken’s youth, and scholarship support totaling almost $2 million for 37 Hoboken students awarded since 1992. Stevens is eager to further expand and strengthen its partnership with Hoboken’s K-12 schools.”

One student said her favorite part of the day was the toxic popcorn activity, as it gave her a chance to work with people she did not know.

For some students, they couldn’t resist taking “selfies’’ and photos with the majestic New York skyline in the background.

The day ended with a meeting with President Nariman Farvardin, an ice cream party and a gift from Stevens—a Stevens T-shirt for all Hoboken students who attended.