Elementary Students Explore Engineering Through UVA-Developed Lessons

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Fourth-grade students at Venable Elementary School in Charlottesville showed off their engineering skills with several hands-on projects Friday. The classes wrapped up a week of science, technology, engineering, and math - or STEM - lessons developed by the University of Virginia.

Teams of students have spent five days working on activities based on different Engineering Teaching Kits. They got to choose from four units created to give them a fun look at what engineering is all about.

From testing rovers on the surface of Mars, to building bridges with sturdy design techniques, fourth-graders at Venable are tasked with completing different engineering assignments.

“They get to figure out what designs work best and which ones don't, and that's fundamental because engineering design is what we hope these students are learning,” said Larry Richards, University of Virginia engineering professor.

The lesson plans are teaching kits created by the UVA School of Engineering.

“This is our first sample with fourth-grade students, and it's working very well. The students know a lot. They pick up the information quickly. They understand what's going on and they're all going to be great engineers,” said Richards.

The projects are giving students like Kydriana Randolph and Lucy Armengol problem-solving tools for their future.

“You work together. You have to like work together and try to like plan stuff before you do it, so I like when you have to work together and not be mean. You have to split stuff up,” said Randolph.

“Just programming it and trying and you never get it right on the first time, but then you learn from that and it's sort of really just fun,” said Armengol.

There are currently 300 people around the country using these teaching kits in various ways at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. The project is supported by the Virginia Middle School Engineering Education Initiative.

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