Youngsters engineer their way to answer
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Want to know how to accomplish something as delicate as slicing a boiled egg or as forceful as crushing an aluminum can with a weight by using similar methods?
Fifth-grade students at O'Loughlin Elementary School in Hays would be glad to tell you.
The three classrooms of fifth-graders filled the school cafeteria Monday morning, setting up their projects for their Compound Machine Fair.
"Are you tired of picking up clothes?" Cami Moore asked passersby.
"Well, don't be," she quipped as she used her T-shirt folder made of cardboard and tape to efficiently fold a shirt.
"Ta-dah," Moore exclaimed, quickly encouraging visitors to check out projects of two of her classmates -- a marshmallow catapult built by Alexis Borders-White and a kitty spin toy made by Anja Ladrigan.
Students under the direction of teachers Sonya Herl, Leslie Karlin and Rhonda Windholz were instructed to make an innovative science project by using at least three simple machines.
The students could choose from among a lever, pulley, wedge, inclined plane, wheel and axle or screws and write a paper about the process.
At the fair, students then told those touring the cafeteria about their projects.
"It's keeping with our STEM," Karlin said of the national science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum.
The project, Karlin pointed out, focused on the engineering part of STEM.
"It's getting into the problem solving and reflection piece, having to explain their plan and their project," she said. "Part of science is being able to stick with a project and to grow through your failures."
Visitors were drawn to the west end of the cafeteria when they heard a popping sound.
It was Javon Searight, showing folks how he built a multi-grade incline out of old barn wood. He used a small toy car to send a golf ball down the track and tripped a piece of wood with a protruding screw that popped the balloon.
On the other end of the room, Devin Taliaferro showed people how she used a screw, a lever and inclined plane to slide candy down a chute and into a dish.
"You can have fun," Taliaferro said, "and it only cost $15."
Nolan Hughes made use of two pulleys, an inclined plane, a screw, a lever and wedge to send his 5-pound weight down a canister to smash a pop can, Kaley Pedigo's inclined plane dropped a boiled egg onto a small bracket lined with taut fishing line. She then used a lever to press the egg through the fishing line and drop slices into a container below.
As fourth-graders, these same students researched and portrayed inventors, and this year they were able to take it one step further.
"Now, they are the inventors," Karlin said. "I think they really came away with the power of simple machines. And that's where all of engineering starts."