Kindergarten engineers

Dec 10, 2004

"K" week turned into a lesson in basic engineering principles for Kindergarteners at Tomek Elementary School in Fenton when Kettering students showed up to "play."

Ms. Patty Johnson's Kindergarteners were working on the letter "K" when Kettering students showed up to have a little fun with the basic principles of engineering. The "k" could have stood for "krunch," "krash," and "krack" by the time Dr. Laura Sullivan's Engineering Mechanics I-Statics class and the Kindergarteners were finished testing the strengths of different materials including toilet paper tubes, plastic cups and hard plastic drinking glasses. Sullivan is associate professor of Mechanical Engineering at Kettering.

Teams of three to four Kindergarteners worked with the "big" kids placing toilet paper tubes and other cylindrical objects under a platform and then applying pressure. Most of the pressure came from the "little" engineers standing, sitting and hopping in ones, twos, threes and fours on the platforms.

What they learned was that toilet paper tubes WILL hold up a person, or even four people, but the fewer tubes, the more likely you are to get a flattened tube. They also found out that it takes a lot of pressure - mostly jumping - to break a hard plastic drinking glass.

The bigger engineers didn't try to explain force and surface tension - they just had fun helping their pint-sized teammates discover the fun of engineering research.

The test frame "machines" used were manufactured by technicians in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Kettering. Approximately 40 Kettering students participated.





Written by Dawn Hibbard