Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Engineering as cool as ice cream!

This according to a story I just came across from the Salt Lake Tribune.

More than 500 students at Salt Lake City’s Bryant Middle School learned Monday that chemistry can be both delicious and fun. Aided by a team of engineers, the middle schoolers mixed up their own batches of vanilla ice cream and Silly Putty.

“I never knew you had to use so many ingredients to make ice cream,” said 12-year-old Alexis Mahana. “Being an engineer looks hard but it sounds cool.”

Nearly 20 chemical engineers from New York to Puerto Rico visited Bryant on Monday as part of the annual convention of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), which is in Salt Lake City this week. They hope to inspire the next generation of engineers.

“In our lifetime, the issues of renewable energy, clean water and clean air [will require] new and novel solutions,” said Rodney Dotson, a professor at City College of New York and chairman of AIChe’s minority affairs committee. “That is what the world will look to [new engineers] to do.”

Engineers, he said, help to solve a variety of human problems and their innovations spur economic growth.

Inspiring the next generation of engineering by teaching them how to make ice cream. For a guy who left a career in engineering to make ice cream, I can't help but find this story ironic. Very cool, but ironic.

At Bryant, seventh-grader Lauren Watkins could not decide which part of making ice cream was the “funnest.” She and a partner placed milk, sugar and vanilla inside a small, sealed plastic bag and then placed that bag inside a larger one with ice and rock salt. She loved shaking the bag to remove the heat from the milk and cause it to freeze. It also was exciting when the bag exploded. But perhaps the best part, she said, was eating the end product.

“I learned about the chemical reaction between ice and salt,” she said. “It was really fun.”

I'm not sure how many chemical engineers get to eat their end product, so that may not be the 'funnest' part for them, but I admire their creativity in finding ways to engage kids in the scientific process. The article doesn't talk much about making Silly Putty, which I'm sure was 'really fun' (wicked fun to you and me) too, but it just didn't stand a chance against the highly favored ice cream.

Well, maybe if they'd had an old Sunday comic section lying around..

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