Students in the Society of Automotive Engineers Student Chapter at ASU are working to introduce the excitement of engineering to young students through the SAE Foundation’s ‘A World In Motion’ program in the Phoenix area.
ASU Engineering students have accumulated over 200 volunteer hours visiting schools, competing with the student teams and sharing their engineering experience.
“Until you get to college, science classes can be pretty boring,” says Wade Gyllenhaal, president of the SAE chapter at ASU. “It is a lot more interesting to talk about how we are building race cars.”
“ASU student volunteers have really helped the program,” says Don Robins, a retired General Motors engineer and coordinator for the AWIM program in Arizona. “Middle school students, many of whom don’t know anything about engineering, relate well to the college students. Volunteers share their engineering experience and the kids really get excited.”
The Society of Automotive Engineers created the program in the 1980s to attract more young students to science, technology, engineering and math. The program is unique in that it brings engineering into the classroom as part of the normal science curriculum. College students together with both working and retired engineers commit time for six to eight weeks to become part of a key science project for the school.
AWIM introduces problem-solving challenges, engaging students in hands-on design and development projects. Elementary students learn jet propulsion and air resistance concepts through the JetToy Challenge. Middle school students are challenged to design a glider that flies as far as possible. Programs for students in grades K-3 were recently introduced bringing exploratory experiments to even younger students.
“We build a lot of things, but we don’t give them a kit. Like the engineering process, we give them a lot of parts and they need to design and create before they can build, then test and revise their designs,” Robins says.
At the end of the program, the teams present their solutions to a fictitious toy company, making a case as to why their project should be put into production.
“This year we had a twist when one teacher challenged ASU students to compete against the best junior high team. It was a lot of fun,” Robins says.
SAE provides student volunteers with funding to help offset registration and travel costs for national SAE automotive competitions. Robins notes that ASU students—seeing the need and gaining satisfaction from their efforts—have far exceeded the hours needed to get this funding.
Gyllenhaal leads the Formula team, who will compete in Nebraska in June. The Baja team heads to Oregon in May, and the Supermileage team to Michigan in June. The Aero Design team recently participated in the Aero Design West competition, receiving a third place Advanced Class Most Accurate award.
The AWIM program in Arizona started with two schools and has expanded to eight schools, reaching over 600 students each year.