Child’s Play? Kids career day mixes playtime with teaching



Elena Kline watches as Sophia King launches her rubber band-powered airplane. The Mogadore fifth graders experimented with wing location and how tight the rubber bands were wound in order to optimize how far the planes could fly at Kids Career Day on March 1. Photo by Eric Kline.

Marbles. Diapers. Salad tongs. Hundreds of area elementary school students experimented with an unusual mix of items at The University of Akron over the weekend to learn about engineering and to consider a new answer the next time they're asked the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

The youngsters, girls in first through sixth grades from throughout Northeast Ohio, visited campus to participate in Kids Career Day. Presented by the UA College of Engineering's Women in Engineering program, the event is geared to teach girls about and to pique their interest in engineering.

Just like real-world engineers, the students looked to nature for inspiration to create man-made maple seeds with helicopter-like properties. They also dissected diapers and tested their super-absorbent polymer layers; built a rudimentary biomedical mechanical arm using salad tongs; and created a Rube Goldberg Machine, a contraption that leads a marble through chutes, down ramps and against swinging panels to a grand finish.

"I like washing the pennies," said Mogadore second-grader Maya Kline, as she rotated between activities at the Saturday morning event. "We put them in different chemicals. Certain chemicals change them: make them shiny or dull."

The students participated in activities led by UA engineering students and faculty members, and professional engineers and scientists from companies such as Lockheed Martin, The J.M. Smucker Company, UTC Aerospace Systems, Rockwell Automation, and many others.

"We want students to walk away knowing that the possibilities are endless for women who choose careers in these fields," said Heidi Cressman, director of the UA Women in Engineering Program.

Media contact: Denise Henry, 330-972-6477 or