Dr. Martin Kane and graduate students from CAMMSE conducted outreach activities at the Charlotte Kids Fest

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UNC Charlotte’s CAMMSE sponsored two booths at Kids Fest 2019 introducing over 430 children to aspects of transportation engineering. This was the second year of CAMMSE’s in participation this free interactive educational event designed for children age 10 and under and their families; over 6,000 people were expected to attend and the volunteers in our booth were busy non-stop with curious young people all day long (11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.).

Those attendees four and younger were attracted by the transportation vehicles lined up for identification and coloring; and some liked measuring distances with a tape measure, or guessing the weights of jars of various samples of aggregate.

Those a bit older were excitedly mesmerized by how many coins their self-designed aluminum boat would hold before it would sink in the water. You could see the children eyeing their fellow participant’s boat when it sunk as they figured out how to counter-balance the coins to maximize the number of coins they could get it to hold. There were many shouts of joy and crowd-wide groans and chuckles when goals were met or when a boat’s capacity was exceeded. Many children carried their custom boat out of the tent with pride and gave them to their parents to take home.

It was a tie for which activity was most popular with the older children-building boats or constructing bridges with spaghetti and marshmallows. Spaghetti triangles, trapezoids, and other creative shapes were attempted-and some bridges had swinging action-for a bit, before they collapsed. Often a parent-child team were focused tightly on putting an imagined shape into reality, one learning from the other about what would or would not work. And everyone was smiling.

This was a highly interactive audience with many parents encouraging children to try their hand at activities and encouraging them to listen to the engineering volunteers explain the ‘how to’ and modeling the way.

Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) students, who are also affiliated with CAMMSE and served as liaisons between the department and the community were:

Shaojie Liu, whose smiling energy and enthusiasm welcomed children to try their hand at the activities; Yizhe Yang, who impressed everyone of all ages with her spectacular boat designs-which were very hard to sink; Li Song, who was tireless in his happy demeanor and gentle encouragement of children as they figured out how to keep their boat from sinking; and Kelsey Lynch, whose inspiration and know-how taught hundreds of children (and their parents) how to create marshmallow & spaghetti structures of all sizes and shapes. Dr. Martin Kane, Associate Professor of CEE, organized the volunteer team, and their activities and materials for the day.