Engineering projects wow high school students at Grand Valley State University

April 22, 2012   News

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Michigan Live | Original Link

by Brian McVicar

GRAND RAPIDS, MI— Remote control in hand, Matthew Dickerson’s face lit up as the toy car sped across the room at Grand Valley State University’s Kennedy Hall of Engineering.

The pink, Fisher-Price car had been modified by engineering students at GVSU so a child who’s paralyzed from the waist down could operate it using a joystick. They also altered the car so the child’s parents could operate it using a remote control. “It feels cool,” Dickerson, a freshman from Arthur Hill High School in Saginaw, said of the machine.

He was one of more than 150 high school students from throughout the state to attend “The Future Looks Bright” Project Day at GVSU’s Padnos College of Engineering and Computing.

The event is meant to showcase the work of GVSU students and show high school students what it’s like to pursue a degree in engineering, said Jon Miner, student services outreach assistant for the engineering college.

“A lot of the high school kids are thinking ‘Am I interested in engineering?’” Miner said. “They get to come here and see some of the projects and find out what engineering is all about.”

A total of 68 projects were on display for the event. They ranged from a “sip and puff” lawn mower that quadriplegics could use to mow their lawn to a student made video game. For students like Dickerson, who’s enrolled in a program specializing in science and technology, some of the projects were a thrill to watch.

“Just creating stuff” is cool, he said.

Wyatt Sabation, a sophomore at Oakridge High School, near Muskegon, said he was impressed with a motorized walker that was created to help a teenager with cerebral palsy walk better.

“I like how they were able to build things and solve problems,” Sabation said of the project.

Dan Sowa, a senior at GVSU who helped create the walker, said the teen, from Forest Hills Northern High School, will use the machine next month in the Fifth Third River Bank Fun Run next month.

“The confidence it gives her is pretty incredible,” Sowa, 26, of Fruitport, said. Miner said student projects are a big part of the student experience at the engineering school. Often, hands-on work is necessary for students to fully grasp the concepts they learn in class.

“If you can touch it and feel it and hear it, you really understand it,” he said. “And a lot of times, when you work on a project, you make mistakes, and you learn from mistakes.”