“Mr. Hardman, have you ever been to space?” one student asked.
“Would it be possible to use an evacuated tube to get to space?” another student asked.
“Could the Earth be used for a gravity assist to get to Mars?” another asked.
Such were the questions during my presentation to 75 7th graders at the Utah Valley University (UVU) Pre-freshman Engineering Program (PREP) held each summer in Utah. This was my second year speaking to them and they were great in their knowledge of physics, math, curiosity, respect,…
I spoke about my various career opportunities in engineering, we watched a couple videos on the development of aircraft and spacecraft, we talked about the good that engineers can do to make life better for people, and we had fun acting-out some physics. To demonstrate the sling-shot or gravity assist principle to get spacecraft to the outer solar-system, several students came to the podium, one representing the sun, one representing Earth, another was Mars, another was Venus, and another was a space probe. I put them into their orbits and they understood that planets closer to the sun orbited faster and planets farther out orbited slower. I launched a student or probe from Earth, she fell toward the sun and came in behind Venus gaining energy and speed then flinging out toward Mars. It was exciting and fun.
We talked about all kinds of physics associated with aerospace and astro-space – they were smart kids selected to represent their school districts in the intense pre-engineering summer program. At the end, a few of the kids came up and asked some pretty smart questions. What a privilege to interact with them. They will now go back to their schools and mentor others.
Yes! there are kids being prepared to be the engineering problem solvers of the future.
“How does your digital device know to rotate the text when you rotate your digital device (e.g. iPhone),” I asked?
“You know what accelerometers are?” I asked. They did, and we talked about them. Great kids, great questions, great future for them and for us.