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November 7, 2013

OU College of Engineering International Conference educates teachers

NORMAN — There are easier ways to pop a balloon than propelling a toy car down a wooden ramp with a trailing duct-taped soda bottle, but that would defeat the purpose.

The goal of the Chain-Reaction STEAM Machines workshop is to show educators how designing multiple tasks, or systems, teaches engineering processes to middle and high school students.

The class was part of the three-day international conference hosted by the University of Oklahoma College of Engineering.

Sponsored by the American Society for Engineering Education, Frontiers in Education is one of the largest engineering conferences in the world.

It brought nearly 500 researchers and educators to Oklahoma to discuss advancements in engineering education and address engineering trends as virtual workforce, online learning and the need to increase student diversity.

In the STEAM workshop, participants’ contraptions mimicked the engineering design process of creating multiple systems, which ultimately connect to complete a single project.

Norman North High School teachers Kevin Warren and Kate Baugher participated in the workshop.

“I liked the design swap because it forces you to design something that works,” said Warren, who teaches physics. “I have had students with a wonderful design, but it is suspended in mid-air, not applicable to real world.”

Warren said reliability testing on individual systems requires students to not only create a working design but also be able to explain in a way that another team could build it.

“We all have different ways of approaching a problem,” said Baugher, Warren’s design partner in the workshop and a chemistry teacher. “This gets us to talk about our different processes and come up with a solution. It is something students need to learn for the workplace, particularly if they are in a virtual environment.”

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