Elementary Engineering: Keepers Camp Sparks Inquiry In Young Scientists
By Beth Potier, Media Relations
July 11, 2007
Going fast, falling hard, building gizmos and launching rockets ... elementary
school-age children are natural engineers. KEEPERS (Kids Eager for Engineering
Program with Elementary Research-based Science), a week-long camp program,
aims to harness those engineering inclinations with activities for science
inquiry and design skills taught by UNH faculty and graduate students. Run
by the Leitzel Center for Mathematics, Science, and Engineering Education,
KEEPERS meets at Barrington Elementary School July 16–20.
This year’s KEEPERS brings together 20 children from throughout the
Seacoast region. Faculty include associate dean of engineering Robert Henry
(civil engineering); associate professor of mechanical engineering Brad Kinsey;
professor Ihab Farag and assistant professor Niva Gupta, both of chemical
engineering; professor of electrical engineering John LaCourse; and professor
of environmental engineering Robin Collins.
Daily activities include challenges to gauge students’ background
knowledge, designing experiments and measuring to gather information and
optimize results, and team efforts to make decisions and build devices that
apply their knowledge to new applications.
Each day presents different engineering adventures in electrical, civil,
chemical, environmental, and mechanical engineering. Students work with household
materials and recyclable junk so that they can continue to improve upon their
designs at home.
Past KEEPERS students have loved the adventures presented by modern engineering
problems and projects. They experience the joy of problem-solving and learn
to persist with coaching from faculty, UNH students, and local teachers. “Engineering
is fun,” past students have commented. Parents commented that “the
students continue to experiment and build when they return home…so
that the learning and excitement continues!”
Program developer Barbara Hopkins has worked with teachers in a variety
of levels (elementary, middle, and high school) to run the KEEPERS Camp.
Teachers have found the curriculum and activities applicable at all levels
and enjoyed the experience of working with young engineers. Students use
science and mathematics concepts and strategize next steps from successes
“The joyous celebration of success is truly meaningful when students
have to struggle with concepts,” says Hopkins. “The KEEPERS kids
really learn together, struggle together, and learn the value of teamwork
in meeting engineering challenges.”
The KEEPERS program is easily transportable to other communities. Interested
parents or teachers should contact the Leitzel Center 2-0718 for more information.