Students teaching

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They can design a race car from scratch. They are fearless when it comes to racing that car they designed, but for Kettering University’s Formula SAE racing team working with little kids is scary stuff.

Six members of the team overcame their trepidation to volunteer at Richfield Public School Academy in Flint, presenting “Learn Twice,” part of the “A World In Motion” (AWIM) curriculum from SAE International (formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers).

AWIM encourages engineers to volunteer in bringing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education to K-12 students.  “Learn Twice” is an initiative in which Collegiate Design Series members, such as the Kettering Formula SAE race team, volunteer in the AWIM program.

“The team had a unique opportunity to work with Richfield PSA in a pilot program for first and third graders,” said Joseph Palazzolo, team captain. “We helped them understand concepts that professionals and engineers implement on a day-to-day basis, by presenting projects such as pinball game assembly and straw rockets,” he explained.

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“I give these teachers a huge amount of credit,” said Palazzolo. “I had not been in an elementary school since I was actually enrolled in one, and this has allowed me to see the experience from the teacher's perspective. Let me tell you, working with children is challenging. However, each student had a unique personality and they were so excited when they discovered something new,” he said.

The most difficult part of the program for the Kettering Formula team was simplifying the engineering concepts so that the first and third graders could better understand why certain practices are used by engineers. “You tend to take for granted the simple concepts you learned prior to starting college, because they are used so often throughout your courses,” said Palazzolo.

“I was surprised at how excited the kids were to learn and test their ideas,” added Palazzolo, “one concept the program demonstrates is how and why to log and document ideas and findings. I was amazed at how ambitious the kids were in logging what they found and sharing their findings with the rest of the class, to learn from each other and develop new ideas as a result. It was exciting to see such young kids performing so well,” he said.

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The team became involved with the Richfield PSA through Dr. Sandra Kay Krug, who sits on the SAE International corporate board of directors as well as the Richfield PSA Board, and Dr. Craig Hoff, professor of Mechanical Engineering at Kettering. Hoff was contacted by Pamela Haldy, principal at Richfield Public School Academy.

“This pilot program through SAE helped our teachers implement STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) principles with our younger students,” said Haldy. “Without the Kettering students we couldn’t have offered these types of STEM projects to our students,” she added.

The six team members who volunteered included Palazzolo, Chris Dutro, Zack Borton, Jon Mader, Josh Miller and Ellen Savoy.

“I think the team would definitely consider this opportunity again. Many companies see volunteerism as playing an important role in their corporate identity and culture,” said Palazzolo, referencing Kettering’s ties to the corporate world through its professional c-op education program.

“By the team joining in on this opportunity, it helps them understand the importance of volunteering in the community. The SAE competition program puts team members ahead of the game professionally, and this opportunity only raises the bar in regard to the caliber and value of the team members to prospective employers. Volunteering for this program shows that the team does not just lock themselves up in the garage to design and build a racecar,” he added.

Contact: Dawn Hibbard