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Engineering Outreach and Engagement: East High School Tensile Testing Project

Members of the Smart Materials and Structures Laboratory, headed by Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor Marcelo Dapino, recently completed an outreach project with East High School, an inner city school located in Columbus, Ohio. 

The goal of the project is to provide pre-engineering freshman and sophomore students at East High School with hands-on laboratory experience in order to complement the students’ coursework and instill an interest in science and engineering.

For the past three years, East High School students have been working alongside Mechanical Engineering Doctoral Candidate Adam Hehr to measure and study tensile properties of common engineering materials such as polycarbonate plastic and aluminum.  Through this program, the students learned experimental procedures and safety practices, and were exposed to technical reporting. Materials for the project were donated by the Smart Materials and Structures Laboratory. 

East High School student works with in-house tensile testerAccording to Hehr, who led this program as a part of his National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, East High School is an excellent outreach partner because they offer a pre-engineering curriculum track.  “East High School is an inner city school with a student body demographic not appropriately represented in science today,” Hehr commented.  “The teachers are passionate about offering new learning opportunities to their students.”

The program is expected to continue in the future supported by the efforts of Postdoctoral Researcher Xiang Chen, a member of the Smart Materials and Structures Laboratory who has recently introduced a computer simulation component into the program.

A tangible outcome of the project is that the students developed a sense of proactivity in learning. “The relationship between Ohio State and East High School is making an impact by exposing students to engineering research at a very high level,” Hehr said.  “They learned that science can be cool and the hands-on experience working side by side with faculty improved their skills and confidence.” 

Chen is impressed with the enthusiasm of the participating students.  “To me, being able to inspire their interest in science and engineering is truly rewarding,” he commented.  “And beyond teaching the class, I learned a lot from the students,” Chen said. 

Jeff Washburn, a pre-engineering teacher at East High School, says the collaboration with Ohio State University helps students better understand engineering and science.  “Students we surveyed enjoy the project and are getting more clarity about the value of pursuing engineering as a career.”