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Students teach fifth graders

By CAITLYN KALSCHEUR | Monday, September 6, 2010


As an outreach project to get more involved with local South Bend youth, the College of Engineering first-year students held a technological discovery day called “I2D2—Imagination, Innovation, Discovery and Design at Notre Dame.”
The event was held Friday at Stepan Center and welcomed nearly 350 students from the South Bend Community School Corporation to campus. The afternoon aimed at answering two questions engineers deal with most: “Why do things work the way they do?” and “How do we make them work better?” 
“The kids like anything where they get to make something or work with something,” Karen Hunter, a South Bend teacher, said. “It’s exciting for them to see projects from start to finish.”
For part of the afternoon, the engineers and fifth-graders broke into small groups to work with LEGOs and  to give the youth a chance to talk with the older students about anything from building a LEGO coconut to what it’s like to go to college.
“This is a day in class for us right now, just sitting her playing LEGOs with you,” freshman Erik Jenson said to students.
The older students were able to act as mentors to the youth, who learned about energy and motion as well as how scientists and engineers design, build and test their experiments.
“Today is really fun, but playing with the LEGOs is the best part,” fifth grader Taylor Pangallo said. 
The students participated in the Irish Pet Project and the 2010 Domer Freewheeling Derby. The activities had students brainstorming ideas for robotic pets and building and racing LEGO vehicles.
“My favorite part of today was building and racing a car,” fifth grader Martha Alsip said. “It was really cool.”
Hunter said her students were excited for the field trip, but they relaxed once they were placed in smaller groups with the engineering students.
“It’s important for the kids to be able to visualize what they’re learning,” she said. “They very much look up to them.”
John Enszer, an instructor in the First Year Engineering Department, said he hopes I2D2 becomes an annual event. 
“It’s exciting to have fifth graders talking to college kids,” he said. “It’s a chance for them to meet role models and it’s a chance for Notre Dame students to interact with the community.”  
Hunter said it is more than an educational field trip to the students. 
“It’s an ongoing incentive to go to college,” she said. 
After experiencing a day like this, students like Pangallo think college must be cool and it gets that thought in the back of their mind.
“I can’t wait until I get to go to school here,” said Pangallo.