For kindergarteners, first and eighth graders last week, some of the mystery of what goes on in Lori Ricks' engineering class in the basement of the high school vocational building was partially revealed.
As part of the Second Annual Engineering Day, the students flowed through about ten different stages in the huge classroom, each shedding light on the hands-on, high-tech learning that takes place in Ricks' classroom.
For the elementary students, the day was about learning "what math and science can do for them," Ricks said.
For the eighth graders, she said, the event is more about advertising and recruitment, akin to high school juniors and seniors visiting potential colleges.
"I can only take 26 freshmen (for next school year)," Ricks said. "If I want to grow the program, I want to get the 26 who really want to do it."
American students may be infamous for their aversion to math. The hands-on activities in Ricks' classroom, however, have a way of getting students involved that simple word problems cannot compete with.
At one of the stations last week, students were presented with a three-dimensional puzzle in which the pieces interlock to form a solid cube.
As a group of a dozen first graders attempted to form the cube, a high school engineering student explained that his class learned to use a computer program to design the dimensions of the individual pieces.
Visitors could be forgiven for wondering if Milton Bradley sponsored the second stage, as it featured a seven-foot tall contraption resembling something straight out of the Mouse Trap board game, its five-stages each comprised of simple machines meant to transport a marble along its way through funnels (screws), ramps (inclined planes) and across see-saws (which operated on a wheel and axle).
"Encore! Encore!" said a bespectacled first grader after a marble's successful descent, thoroughly impressed.
It's tough to follow an act of that caliber. As the engineering students at an adjacent booth explaining the electronic coding and scripting of some remote-control automobiles they'd designed found out, remote-control cars just aren’t what they used to be for this tech-savvy generation.
For the rest of this story, please see this week's edition of The Cadiz Record.