Students From Two Area High Schools Learn Engineering Design Process During Summer UTC Program

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"The Red Team" - Students from Chattanooga’s Brainerd High School and The Howard School participated in the "Paper Ball Run Challenge."
“The Blue Team” – Students from Chattanooga’s Brainerd High School and The Howard School participated in the “Paper Ball Run Challenge.”

A program designed to strengthen the math and science skills of participating high school students returned to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga this summer.

The Upward Bound Math Science Promoting Resolve in Science and Math (PRISM) program offered various academic activities and workshops on social and emotional learning, foreign language, math and science for students from Chattanooga’s Brainerd High School and The Howard School.

Thirteen students from Brainerd and 10 from Howard took summer classes, stayed in Stagmaier Hall on campus and otherwise experienced college life.

Course offerings included engineering design led by Sandra C. Affare, a first-generation UTC engineering graduate and adjunct professor in the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Affare said students participated in a “Paper Ball Run Challenge” using curriculum she adopted from Science Buddies, an organization that provides a website of free science project productivity tools and mentoring to support K-12 students. In this project, students designed, built, tested, redesigned and rebuilt a ball run with given constraints.

“Students expanded their ability to solve problems with incorporated constraints and explored the value of failure and revision in the experimental process while engaging in a team to develop a solution,” Affare said.

She included a Next Generation Science Standard of planning and testing a design individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence as part of building and revising models and testing solutions.

The purpose of the unit was to introduce and demonstrate the engineering design process to encourage students to try new things and think critically.

The main goal of the challenge, she said, was to build a ball run using only paper and tape to create the slowest ball run traveling from the entrance to the exit. The students were randomly placed on one of two teams, with the winning team determined by the most improved score between prototype and final design.

Upward Bound Math Science, part of the UTC Center for Community Career Education, is a federally funded TRIO program through the U.S. Department of Education. TRIO includes eight programs that serve and assist low-income individuals, first-generation college students and individuals with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to postbaccalaureate programs.

Upward Bound Math Science works with students throughout the academic year, meeting two or three Saturdays a month and participating in STEM activities throughout the year. Students and their families get help navigating the college admissions process, and the program has resulted in 88% of participants enrolling in college over the past five years.