Drexel University AIChE Members Support Educational Outreach

By Daniel McPherson and Krysten Minnici

On Saturday, Feburary 23, four Drexel University AIChE members taught a science lesson to seventh grade students from three west Philadelphia schools. These students are a part of the Lindy Scholars program, which focuses on tutoring in math and literacy. The Lindy Scholars program strives to help 6-8th grade students become more successful by sending Drexel students to local K-8 schools to tutor. This program gives a glimpse into the poor schools of the area. In many cases, more than half of the students in a classroom do not learn and consequently do poorly in their classes. In fact, earlier in the day the group of students--all from Philadelphia--didn't know the date that the Declaration of Independence was signed. The frustrating problem is that students in these schools are smart and have the same potential as any other group of students at their age. The only difference between their schooling and the others is that other students have more people encouraging and teaching them: These students only need mentors, tutors and role models to make them apply themselves. Tutors from the Lindy Scholars program encourage kids to explore the world, to dream about the future, and to believe in their abilities. In turn, the tutors expect excellence from every one of them.

Making science fun

Drexel's AIChE volunteers think that science can be incredibly fun. We used our enthusiasm for science, underlining that math can explain everything the students learned about, to keep the students involved while teaching a lesson. The lesson was a collection of science projects recommended by Benjamin Davis of Cooper Union and Tony Butterfield of University of Utah, which focused on exploring air and pressure. They included making CD hovercrafts powered by balloons and launching a water bottle rocket. The students' first reaction when they heard that they were doing science projects was to complain, but when they started exploring the concepts, they started having fun. They successfully and enthusiastically answered every question they were asked about the basic concepts of air and pressure. With the volunteers' assistance, each student created their CD hovercraft and tested it in the hallway. They were almost having too much to fun to continue with the additional activities planned to explain air and pressure. Then, after a quick interactive talk about how math is important in everyday lives, the students went outside to experiment with the water bottle rocket. As can be seen,in the video we made, the students were excited and actively participating in each launch, despite the fact that it was chilly and misting outside.

Programs such as Lindy Scholars help students realize the importance of math and science in their everyday lives. The brief presentation on how math is important showed the students that everything around them uses math. The short hour the volunteers spent with the students provided additional reinforcement for the students to persevere through their math courses.

Did experiments like these spark your interest in science?