The Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science

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Local middle schoolers dive into STEM in visit to Watson

Electrical and Biomedical Engineering students help educate future engineers

Binghamton East and West Middle-School students in the sixth grade learn basic science lessons from Watson School students during a STEM visit to the Engineering and Science Building at the Innovative Technologies Complex, Feb. 13, 2017.
Binghamton East and West Middle-School students in the sixth grade learn basic science lessons from Watson School students during a STEM visit to the Engineering and Science Building at the Innovative Technologies Complex, Feb. 13, 2017. Photography: Jonathan Cohen, Binghamton University.

Not every student learns best from textbooks.

Ten Binghamton University National Science Foundation NanoSTEM scholarship recipients – who attend the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science or Harpur College – helped science come alive for 400 Binghamton City School District sixth-graders in the Innovative Technologies Complex on Feb. 15 and 16.

“Providing a hands-on experimental environment might spark the love of science,” said Nicolas Graham, a junior integrative neuroscience major, who helped the visitors run five experiments all related to different types of energy: wind, electrical, chemical, potential and kinetic.

The event was set up by Electrical and Computer Engineering Associate Professor David Klotzkin. Middle schoolers created sailboats, potato batteries, hand warmers, rockets and roller coaster tracks to explore energy in a hands-on way.

Junior Biomedical Engineering major Meranda Ruff, ran the baking soda and vinegar bottle rocket activities in the ITC Rotunda.

“Instead of just reading or being taught about chemical energy, they were able to create a chemical reaction and watch chemical energy transform into mechanical energy,” Ruff said about the “explosion energy” experiment as one middle schooler put it. Ruff pointed out the event is a great way to get students interested in STEM subjects at a young age.

At Graham’s hand warmer station he saw a budding interest in STEM begin first hand.

“I had one student who was particularly tough near the end of the day,” Graham said. “I explained the experiment to the group and started passing out materials. He sarcastically commented, ‘Oh, so it’s going to get warm, huh? Real cool.’ I smiled and told him he would see. When he mixed his materials, the hand warmer got really hot. The thermal radar read about 140 degrees. His face lit up as he exclaimed, ‘You said it would be warm—this is straight hot!’ It seemed his day turned around, and he was excited about something he had done.”

The education was not limited to just the visitors.

“Having an understanding of material enough to be able to simplify it to a sixth-grade level—and have them understand—requires knowing information inside and out,” Graham said.

This is the second year of the program and due to its increasing success Klotzkin doesn’t see it stopping there.

I think it went very well,” Klotzkin said. “We were quite happy with it! I think we would be happy to do it again.”

Last Updated: 8/30/16