Lake Superior State University’s Society of Automotive Engineers Baja Club have started volunteering at the Sault Area Middle School to promote STEM education.
The Baja club is a student organization in which volunteering activity is primarily sponsored by Society of Automotive Engineers International, a parent organization. Dr. Zakaria Mahmud, who is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Lake Superior State University and also the faculty advisor for Lake State’s Society of Automotive Engineers Baja Club, said the Society of Automotive Engineers International sponsors free STEM kits to participating K-8 institutions to allow engineering students to work with the school teacher in hands-on STEM education.
These students provide lessons and help seventh-graders build and test fuel-cell cars. This activity will end with an in-house race between the teams.
“This is all about STEM education,” Mahmud said in an email. “Seventh graders get a unique opportunity to engage with future engineers to learn, design, assemble and understand advancements in automotive technologies, especially in alternative energy sources via fun-driven exciting hands-on activity. This volunteering will provide high-quality education to the seventh graders and is expected to enthuse our future workforce into the STEM field.”
The engineering students directly involved in this volunteer effort include Evan Wujcik, who is club president, Breanna Kemppainen, Katherine Mendrick, Carter Stark, Pascal Klimes, Patrick Bickings and Eli Fournier. These students are following COVID-19 guidelines as required by the Sault Area Middle School as well as Lake State. If needed, Mahmud said this activity could be modified for remote learning.
To get the program off the ground, Mahmud said the Society of Automotive Engineers International initially reached out to the club advisors about the volunteer opportunity. The goal of the program was to grow the interests of K-8 students in the STEM field. From there, Mahmud began discussions with local principals in 2018. The first program took place in 2018 for K-5 Washington Elementary students, where they built gravity-driven and balloon-powered cars. In 2019, Lake State students volunteered at Lincoln Elementary School with fourth graders to build straw rockets.
“The kit comes complete with all the parts needed to build the car except distilled water,” said Mahmud. “The water, along with the battery-powered electricity, produces hydrogen gas that drives the car. The Lake State students will provide basic engineering education including force, mass, power sources, green energy sources, etc. With the help of engineering students, seventh graders will re-design the car for better performance and compete with the other teams.”
Mahmud added that each of the 10 teams will work on their kit on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays for about three or four weeks until they are ready to compete with other teams. Typically, a few Lake State students visit the middle school at a time. Mahmud said although the lesson plan is pre-designed, the engineering students work closely with the STEM teacher to accomplish every days’ goals. After each team competes, the cars will be taken apart and stored in the original box for future use.
“I believe this is a great opportunity for both Lake State students and the K-8 students to participate in a hands-on activity,” said Mahmud. “Lake State nurtures a strong engineering program where students are allowed to engage in community outreach programs.”
For more information about Lake Superior State University, visit www.lssu.edu. For more information about Sault Area Middle School, visit www.saultschools.org/page/1302.