Eastman Engineer Ryan Shaw applies science and math to their "Sink or Swim" class project.Tony Duncan/Johnson City Press
It’s not often that an eighth-grade teacher tells her students to do whatever floats their boats, but Katie Crowe told her science class just that last week.
During a demonstration by visiting Eastman engineers Ryan Shaw and Meg Wiebe, the Boones Creek Middle School students were challenged to build boats out of aluminum foil, popsicle sticks and tape that could keep the greatest number of pennies afloat.
The engineers used the exercise to promote their profession to the children, part of Engineers Week, a longstanding outreach program to get young students interested in jobs in science and math fields.
“Eastman comes out every year for Engineers Week,” Shaw said after the class was dismissed. “It’s a program that we’ve had a lot of success with in the past and I know we and the kids seem to have a good time.”
In the design problem presented to the students, the materials for their boats cost money, but for each penny they kept afloat, they made some money back. The team with the largest profit won.
The five teams built varying types of craft, some with more traditional hull shapes and others more barge-like, practicing functionality over form.
In the end, one team barged into the lead, floating the weight of 640 pennies for a cool $446 of profit.
Although the money was only play, the enthusiasm of cheering children ringing the tub of water as their laden boats sank lower and lower was real, and Crowe said that’s what makes the engineers’ visit so valuable.
“When they come here, they always get the students excited about science and get them to be creative and work together in groups,” Crowe said. “It’s really so many different lessons in one, and they have fun while they’re doing it to.”
Wiebe, who has seen a couple of Engineers Weeks during her tenure at Eastman, said the students at Boones Creek were more enthusiastic than most.
“They were very excited today about the project,” she said. “It’s been really rewarding to see them get really into it.”
Each year, Eastman employees visit dozens of science classes in the region, holding demonstrations and telling the students about the rewards of earning a degree in engineering.