CBU summer engineering course offers fun challenges for high school students
Riverside, Calif. (July 19, 2019) – Pieces of broken, uncooked spaghetti noodles lay on the floor in the Dennis and Carol Troesh Engineering Building, remnants of a shattered bridge. Despite the mess, a team of high schoolers were amazed the bridge out-performed expectations.
“I did not think our bridge would hold that much,” said James Dingle, a senior at Los Osos High School in Rancho Cucamonga, California. His team’s bridge held 20 pounds but broke apart at 25.
“Engineering is super detail-oriented. One small thing can mess up the entire project. You have to be attentive to detail and careful with everything you do,” Dingle said.
Dingle was participating in Engineering Innovation, a four-week summer course developed by Johns Hopkins University, being offered at 15 sites nationwide. Sixteen high school students attended the program at CBU's Gordon and Jill Bourns College of Engineering, June 24-July 19.
The course covered several areas of engineering, including chemical, electrical/computer, mechanical and civil. The program included lectures and hands-on projects.
Dr. Mario Oyanader, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, said the program exposes the students to various engineering disciplines.
“Having that hands-on experience gives you an idea of what you want to do five years down the road,” Oyanader said.
The course culminated with a spaghetti bridge contest. Students were tasked to use only dry spaghetti and epoxy glue to build a bridge. To test the bridges’ resilience, weight is added to the bridges until they shatter.
The exercise teaches students about the strength of materials and teamwork, Oyanader said.
“Working as a team is what they will encounter in real life,” Oyanader said. “Designing a building is not a one-person job. It’s many people working together.”
Evelin Zaragoza, a senior at Norte Vista High School in Riverside, is interested in electrical engineering. She enjoyed working on a team.
“You get to work with different people who see things a different way and they work the problems in a different way,” Zaragoza said.
Daniel Kari (’14), a biology teacher at Woodcrest Christian High School in Riverside, served as a teaching fellow with the program. Learning how to make the lessons hands-on has been valuable, Kari said.
“As a high school teacher, we have a curriculum we have to get through,” Kari said. “The program helps teachers figure out how to make the class more application-focused. How can I move from lecture to activities quickly? That’s what keeps students engaged the most.”