Michigan Engineering News

A group of people in matching purple t-shirts.

Promoting STEM on spring break

Students design hands-on projects with high school students in the Chicago area

A group of people in matching purple t-shirts.
Group photo of the ten ASB-SWE members and their advisor, Bryan Enochs, at Lindblom after a day of working with the students

This post was written by Mariah Fiumara, program manager in Michigan Engineering’s Office of Student Affairs.

For 26 University of Michigan students, this year’s spring break consisted of the sounds of eggs breaking, metal sinking, and wind blowing all in the name of science. These are just a few of the unique activities these students put together as part of a lesson plan for high school students in Chicago.

Last month, members of the group Alternative Spring Break-Chicago (ASB-C) and Alternative Spring Break-Society of Women Engineers (ASB-SWE) went to five high schools in the Chicago area to help inspire young students to consider careers in the STEM field. Each day they met with students and conducted a hands-on activity. They might develop a method to keep eggs from crashing in a small-scale simulated car crash, or build wind turbines, or create toy boats out of aluminum foil and pipe cleaners that can withstand carrying the weight of the most pennies.

Anna Kaehr, one of the leaders of the ASB-SWE recalled, “The Front-End Design activity we ran was a lot of fun. The task was to design a solution to a way to nap at school whenever and wherever. One group came up with a headband with a nap timer; another student decided to add a life vest to their product in case they truly did fall asleep in weird places like a pond! As students, we are often told how and what to design, so it was cool to see the students’ creativity.”

This Alternative Spring Break program has been an annual event for the past 8 years. For these groups, building awareness of STEM education is a natural way to support Michigan Engineering’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan. The best aspect of being involved has been seeing students who were impacted by the Alternative Spring Break programs when they were in high school come to Michigan Engineering and join ASB after stating how this program sparked their interest in pursuing a career in engineering. As one of the leaders of ASB-C, Joseph Komperda, stated, “Being able to return to your high school and inspire younger students to pursue a career they never thought of is an incredible feeling.”