Through innovative and easy-to-use Engineering Teaching Kits, the Engineering School makes the study of engineering fundamentals available to local youth well before they ever set foot in a college classroom.
Founded in 2002 by Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Larry G. Richards through the Virginia Middle School Engineering Education Initiative, the Engineering Teaching Kits program enables undergraduate students to design customized lesson plans, or teaching kits, for middle and high school students. The kits cover a variety of engineering topics, such as solar cars, bridges, catapults, hovercrafts, submarines, planes and rockets, vehicle crash testing, sustainable house design, artificial arms, water filtration devices, heart pumps and brain surgery.
As part of the design process, the students take the plans to local schools, where they field-test the kits by leading the students through the engineering discovery exercises. Each kit includes an engineering design challenge. The pre-college students then demonstrate their understanding by designing and building a working device or system.
Over the past five years, the Engineering Teaching Kits have proven very successful. “Our students,” Richards says, “have done a great job of representing the Engineering School, serving as role models, and both teaching the students and getting them excited about engineering.”
The kits are being used by middle school science and math teachers throughout Central Virginia and in summer programs for both middle and high school students. This program is supported by the Payne Family Foundation and the National Science Foundation.
Engineering Teaching Kits have been field tested on a wide array of topics, including: