Engineering Challenges Carnival kicks off E-Week

Jordan Reif, Staff Reporter

Hundreds of students aged 2-18 years-old from the greater Cleveland area gathered at the Thwing Center last Saturday for the Engineering Challenges Carnival. Kicking off the week-long celebration of engineers, or “E-Week,” the annual carnival is Case Western Reserve University’s largest science, technology, engineering and math outreach event.

Me’lani Joseph, the director of engineering for the Leonard Gelfand STEM Center, has been the coordinator for the event, responsible for building, managing and implementing it for seven years. This year marks the second year of using the entire Thwing Center building to host booths related to STEM. Booths were organized by over 200 different student volunteers and approximately 18 organizations on campus.

Hosted by Women in Science and Engineering Roundtable (WISER), the American Society of Civil Engineers, Case Amateur Radioclub and many other campus groups, the stands exposed kids to the wonders of STEM and the powers of their imagination.

Amanda Lindamood, a fourth-year student studying dance, psychology and cognitive science volunteering at the event, was amazed by how many young kids were in attendance. There were over 400 children counted within the first hour of the event. The emphasis on introducing children of all ages, especially younger kids, to STEM opportunities was a theme among organizers, volunteers and attendees.

“It is awesome to see that parents are bringing their toddlers in today, I think exposure is a huge part in child development,” she said.

Kate Kutnick, a mother from Solon, Ohio, brought her three-year-old daughter to the carnival to support her daughter’s interests. “STEM events allow kids [to] lead on their own based on what they’re interested in,” she said. Kutnick added that the CWRU students volunteering at the event did a good job of making the different stations and tools understandable for all different ages and comprehension levels.

Piper, six-year old daughter of Jaime Onk, and her 10-year old sister were both excited about the event; Piper had a cast on her arm that she had made at one of the booths hosted by the Humanitarian Design Corps.

Lillian Velez, a first-year student studying civil engineering who helped staff the Humanitarian Design Corps table, explained that their booth taught kids how to use different craft tools to craft something similar to the design of ankle and wrist braces. Velez hoped the station would help teach children problem-solving skills.

Ebony, an eighth grade science teacher, brought her three children, ages two, four and 13-years-old, to the event. Proudly wearing a NASA shirt, she praised the event, reiterating that her children felt the same way. The event helps them “learn to explore and [shows them] that science is more than just lab coats and goggles,” she said. “[They] are able to use whatever they want and their imagination to build something.”

One of the stations provided kids the opportunity to build giant structures out of gears. The booth was operated by fourth-year chemical engineering student Sarah Ahmad, who has volunteered at the carnival for the last four years. She emphasized the success of the event in introducing youth who may not have comparable opportunities at their high schools to “anything related to STEM.”

In a similar vein, Lily Harwood, a third-year biology student and E-Week coordinator for WISER, stressed the importance of community interactions, both for the younger kids and for CWRU volunteers.

“We are often very isolated on this campus, and the people outside [can be] isolated in their own towns, homes and communities, but interacting these two styles … and different levels of education, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds gives people the opportunity to not only talk about science, but about … life.” said Harwood.

All of the volunteers, coordinators and parents hoped the carnival would give kids the opportunity to have fun, learn and be encouraged to pursue any of their STEM aspirations. Sebastian, a seven-year old wearing an “I love Science” graphic t-shirt, said he was very excited about attending because his mom had told him it would be an entire event dedicated to science. Saying that he has been interested in STEM since kindergarten, Sebastian hopes to continue pursuing and learning about science as he grows up.