Middle school students act as engineers

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On Saturday morning, Dallas Hall Lawn was filled with students like any other school day. The difference, however, was that the students were 6th, 7th and 8th graders.

For the 16th annual year, SMU Lyle School of Engineering welcomed over 900 middle school students for Visioneering, a free event allowing young students to explore STEM fields and engage in critical thinking activities.

Seventy local professional engineers, some of which were current Lyle employees, and student volunteers served as mentors and judges. The student volunteers were offered the opportunity to attend a networking breakfast with the engineering professionals before the event began.

The half-day event began at 8:15 a.m. and lasted until around 12:30 p.m. with the festivities beginning in McFarlin Auditorium.

After listening to speeches in McFarlin that encouraged students to consider different aspects of engineering such as being eco-friendly with Assistant Dean of Recruitment, Retention and Alumni Relations Mickey Saloma as host, the students were then dismissed to different classrooms to begin the design challenge.

The challenge this year, created by Visiting Clinical Professor of Design and Innovation Gray Garmon, required students to think of the ideal classroom of 2025.

“I’m trained as an architect, and I enjoy the process of working on participatory design,” said Garmon. “I wanted to create something they were a part of like the classroom.”

The students were distributed into groups of 10 with a mentor heading each group. They were then given art supplies such as a shoebox, paper, glue and scissors and then left to their imaginations to create a panorama of their ideal classroom. Some challenges included were to think about the small things such as lighting.

“I learned that working together is better than working alone,” said 7th-grader Judiah, a student participating in the event.

After the students finished, mentors then split from their groups and went to judge the panoramas of two other groups. “I was pleasantly surprised that several groups worked on being eco-friendly,” said Milind Khandare, one of the judges and engineering professionals at the event.

The event then commenced back at McFarlin where the judges announced the winners of the design challenge as well as an engineering exhibit. In addition, the TI jazz band, an 18 piece ensemble composed of current Texas Instruments employees that started in 1986, performed for the students.

Big crowd at the Visioneering event at SMU. A room full of future engineers. What a fun gig.

Posted by The Texas Instruments Jazz Band on Saturday, February 20, 2016

This year, a committee composed of three SMU employees spearheaded this event: Elizabeth Riley, Christie Pearson and Heather Hankamer. “I hope they get a better understanding of what engineering is and what an engineer does and that we inspire a group of young engineers,” said Pearson, program coordinator.

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