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Cambridge, MA--Twelve students from a Cambridge elementary school attended MIT last week for a special Science and Engineering Day Camp sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The seventh and eighth graders from the Fletcher Elementary School, along with science teacher, Ned Rice, made their own laser light show, constructed a printed circuit, and explored the Internet during the first five days of the MIT Center for Material Science and Engineering's program, which runs one week in the summer and another five days later in the year.
This program developed four years ago out of a NSF grant aimed at attracting minority students to science, said Susan Rosevear, staff coordinator of the Day Camp, and education and publications coordination for the Center for Materials Science and Engineering. Each year the Fletcher School chooses 12-14 students to participate in the program.
This year's students learned about the tempering of glass and got to try their hand, or rather mouth, at blowing glass. They smelted copper from raw malachite and they tried a little blacksmithing. The students explored high speed video and strobe photography and spent some time learning about artificial intelligence. Those diverse areas were combined with a basic physics demonstration and a tour of MIT to give the students a good idea of the interesting and fun worlds of science and engineering.
On their closing day they spent time in MIT's Edgerton Center, a learning center where students invent and discover. There they competed in the Lego Car Rally, building cars made of Lego pieces that would roll down a plastic tube, over a hill and travel as far as possible. In this exercise they learned about kinetic and potential energy, friction and the center of gravity so that they could make a car that would best travel its course.
The rally's winner was Sheila Martinez, with Janelle Gibbs coming in second and Zulmie Davis third. Fabienne O'Stane was named runner-up.
"The students get to experience the fun and excitement of working in a lab and they get to see what going to college might be like," said Rosevear. "By high school the students are choosing classes that may rule out some of their options. We hope they'll develop a real interest in science and technology."