Budding engineers take flight at OSU-Tulsa summer camp

Madison Maier is precise with her measurements. She knows a few extra centimeters of foam board could be the difference between a soaring model drone and a pile of broken materials.

“I like measuring and trying different designs to make the best drone,” said Maier, a freshman at Glenpool High School. “It’s pretty cool that you can take regular foam boards and turn them into something that can fly.”

Though she’s only in her first year of high school, Maier is already considering a career in engineering. That interest brought her to Oklahoma State University-Tulsa on Friday to build a model unmanned aerial vehicle, or what’s more commonly known as a drone.

The project was part of the Tulsa Alliance for Engineering’s annual summer camp for middle and high school students. OSU-Tulsa partnered with Wallace Engineering for the event, which gives students like Maier the opportunity to learn more about the different fields of engineering.

The camp included instruction from Dr. James Kidd, OSU clinical associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, on aerospace mechanics and a lesson on how to build a model drone. Students applied the knowledge they gained from Kidd to build their drones.

Maier was placed with a team of eight other students to design, construct and test a model drone using foam board, glue and an electronic motor.

“Each member brought their own ideas about design and construction and they had to come together as a team to find the best solution,” said Ronald Knight, OSU-Tulsa academic coordinator for the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology. “In addition to applying engineering concepts, the activity teaches them important lessons about problem solving and teamwork.”

The project challenged A.J. Pace, a freshman at Broken Arrow High School, because of the number of people on his team.

“I like to do things quickly and efficiently,” said Pace. “Working as a big team was difficult. Smaller groups make for better communication.”

Iyan Smith Williams, an eighth-grade student at Thoreau Demonstration Academy, enjoyed the teamwork aspect of the task.

“Building the drone with others had its pros and cons, but working with other people is an important part of engineering,” said Smith Williams. “I learned a lot about myself and about building drones.”

Prior to the model building exercise, the group toured several sites in the Brady Arts District with representatives from Wallace Engineering. The tour included the Wallace Engineering office and several projects completed by the firm in the area, including Guthrie Green and Hardesty Arts Center.

“I especially liked the rooftop outdoor area at Wallace Engineering,” said Maier. “I was also impressed by their designs at Guthrie Green, especially the structures covered in vines. I want to create something like that.”

Guthrie Green is a former industrial and commercial site that was refurbished into a park and entertainment area.

“Turning a trucking facility into a multiuse park is awesome and shows that downtown is changing for the better,” said Smith Williams. “The tour gave me a feel for what engineers are doing on the job and their working environment.”

The Tulsa Alliance for Engineering offers the camp each summer. Each member of the alliance, including OSU-Tulsa, Oral Roberts University, University of Tulsa, Tulsa Technology Center, Tulsa Community College and the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa, hosts the students for a day.

The event also included a tour of the Brady Arts District with Wallace Engineering. Students visited the firm’s office and several completed projects in the area.

At the end of the camp, the experience of working with her team on a model drone helped reassure Maier that she is on the right career path.

“I might want to be a civil or architectural engineer,” said Maier. “I want to make the world a better place and engineering will help me do that.”

Oklahoma State University – Tulsa
June 26, 2014
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