DOLLAR BAY - Dollar Bay elementary school students spent Thursday night learning about how to build a parachute to protect an egg, how color is created and how to build bridges, among other things.
The Western Upper Peninsula Center for Science, Mathematics & Environmental Education conducted its Family Science Night event at Thomas R. Davis Elementary School in Dollar Bay. The event, taught by Michigan Technological University students, was the last of more than 12 science nights held throughout the western U.P. this fall.
"It's a unique program in the country," said Joan Chadde, education coordinator for the center. "I haven't come across this being done anywhere else."
Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
Dollar Bay students Nadine and Kallyn Kangas play with rubber band guitars in a demonstration of the principles of sound during Family Science Night at Dollar Bay Thursday.
In one segment, students took apart a flashlight to discover how it works, then re-engineered it to make a reading light that could be worn on their head, using tools such as pipe cleaners and clips. The activity is also part of a family engineering program being developed through Michigan Tech's $1.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
"How many of you have dammed up a river before?" Tech electrical engineering student Sandra Hall asked the students. A majority of students raised their hands.
"That's civil engineering," she said.
Hall concluded by asking how many students had done electrical engineering that night.
"All of you," she said. "Good job."
Tech physics student Erin Scanlon taught younger students about vibration and pitch.
"Anytime there's a vibration, there's going to be a sound," she said. "Anytime there's a sound, there's a vibration."
They started with the sound of smartly thwacked rulers before moving on to guitars - rubber bands stretched horizontally across pencil boxes.
Students mauled the strings, running their hands up and down the box. Some bowed them with a ruler, Jimmy Page-style.
"That sounds beautiful," Scanlon said as she walked around the room. "Sim-ply beautiful. I love it."
They then stretched the rubber bands lengthwise across the box, producing a higher note.
Gabe Wuebben, one of the students, said he enjoyed "making different noises."
Chadde said they plan to make another grant to disseminate the science night model around the country, in partnership with groups such as Foundation for Family Science and the Boston Museum of Science. The hope is to publish a family engineering activity guide in a year, Chadde said.
Fourth-grader Elissa Campioni tried both making bridges and a session with experiments about gravity.
"It was fun to see how many pennies it could hold until it dropped," she said.
Her gumdrop bridge collapsed, but a paper bridge made like a fan held all 100 pennies.
Garrett Neese can be reached at email@example.com.