Engineering Open House focused on Illuminating New Horizons


Ryan Fang

Engineering students explain their project to visiting guests during Engineering Open House at the University on Friday.

By Sabrina Yan, Karen Liu and Leon Li

Among the 40 plus exhibits that were showcased at the Beckman Institute open house this past weekend, one was comprised of elementary school students.

A group of third, fourth and fifth grade students from Stratton Elementary School in Champaign presented their research on coral reefs. They worked with Justin Rhodes, associate professor in the department of psychology, and a group of his researchers.

“We have this collaboration with Stratton Elementary School,” Rhodes said. “These guys are now raising some clown fish in their school. We have field trips for the kids to come to the Beckman (Institute) to see the lab and we talk a little bit about our research.”

Collaboration between the Institute and Stratton on a coral reef project began two years ago.

“What we do in our classroom is that we have a coral reef ecosystem,” said Brandon Rutherford,  third grade teacher at Stratton Elementary School. “Through taking care of these eco-systems, they learn engineering, all the social skills to go with research in collaboration, a lot of physical chemistry and biology all mixed together.”

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    This was the 14th year of the open house. Started in 1997, it was an annual event until 2003, when it changed into a biannual event.

    “Some exhibits go away and some come back, but we have new exhibits every year,” said Doris Dahl,  communication specialist of the Beckman Institute.

    Some of the exhibits had activities for different age groups.

    “I know one group plans an exhibit where you put your face in and you could take a photo,” Dahl said. “One group has sand art where you can make a necklace or keychains.”

    Along with the Beckman open house, the 97th annual Engineering Open House at the University was held this weekend as well.

    “We open the doors in engineering to show the community how exciting engineering and the sciences are,” said Richard Kubetz, spokesman for the College of Engineering.

    One featured exhibit is a net-zero model home, presented by Meridan Markowitz, junior in mechanical engineering. The exhibit displays a house that uses renewable and green energy sources for all of its energy needs.

    “It would be awesome if we could inspire kids or even adults to get excited about green and renewable energy,” Markowitz said.

    Ash Busse, junior in computer engineering, also hopes to make a difference. Busse’s project analyzes sounds and transforms them onto an LED displayer.

    With the addition of the second annual Startup Showcase, the open house highlighted not only technological innovations, but also the entrepreneurial aspect of engineering.

    Both the Beckman open house and the University’s open house provide a hands-on approach for younger kids to get involved in the science and technology field.

    “I think one of the big thing is that when they are young, it is important to get kids inspired and excited about science,” Rhodes said.

    Sabrina Yan contributed to this report

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