Engineering students hold outreach event

Jessica Johnson

ISU engineering students introduced shoppers to the world of engineering Saturday at North Grand Mall, conducting experiments and explaining the processes.

The College of Engineering holds its outreach event at North Grand Mall every year. This year’s objective was to provide the public with a fun look at science, with 15 clubs participating.

“I organized the event with the mall but it’s really the clubs that come through. I can’t do anything if they didn’t come. It is great to know that we have this type of backing and that they will sign up to do this,” said Austin Laugen, sophomore in computer engineering and vice president of outreach for the Engineering Student Council.

The Society of Women Engineers showed about 60 kids how to make homemade lava lamps they could take with them, consisting of water, vegetable oil and food coloring. When adding a catalyst such as Alka-Seltzer, the result is imitation lava.

A second experiment used whole milk and food coloring to demonstrate properties of oil and water, which are not soluble. However, by adding a drop of soap, it breaks up and creates a swirling pattern. The club’s goal was to create experiments where the kids could stay interested, have fun and get interested in science.

The ISU chapter of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, along with the ISU Cyclone Power Pullers, showed off models of tractors they built from the ground up. They compete in competitions that have set rules on how they can construct and the details of the tractors. With seven highly-active members, they take what they learn in class and past exposure to divide up their talents to create the machinery. Their new design will come in weighing around 800 pounds.

Freshmen Leaders in Engineering posted a challenge using paper and five paper clips to build a bridge supporting as many pennies as possible without folding. The group also tutors middle school students, helping with math and science problems. They also build a float every year for VEISHEA, representing all of the departments in the College of Engineering.

Materials Advantage held several unique experiments. The highlight experiment was eating marshmallows frozen with liquid nitrogen.

“It was so cool. Liquid nitrogen is the coolest thing I’ve ever experienced,” said Xen Li, a 10-year-old participant.

They also burned pennies on material used for space shuttles, since it is heat repellant and does not burn. Another experiment consisted of a solution called Oobleck, made of cornstarch and water.

The substance acts like a solid after punching or hitting it, but is like quicksand if someone simply rests their hand in it. They also had memory wire, such as the one used in braces. Even when twisted, once heated, it returns back to its original shape.

“The kids are excited about all the ooey-gooey stuff, whereas the adults can say how they went to Iowa State 40 years ago and ask them to tell them about what they are learning and what they do,” Laugen said.