Thursday, July 14, 2016

College for Kids 2016

Change seems to be inevitable but sometimes we are just not sure why.  This year the project building class I have taught for several years as part of the College for Kids program at Winona State University had more female students than male. Just two years ago it was completely male students and other years there might possibly be two females in a class at the most.  Could the promotion that various groups have been using to get more girls interested in science and engineering be working?  

CFK 2014 Entire Class of Boys

CFK 2016 Slightly More Girls than Boys 

This year I had changed the title of the class as last year for the first time the number of students enrolled was rather low until almost the end. Previously the course was titled “Engineering Through Models” but this year I used more popular acronyms and created “STEM DIY”.  What I liked about this title is it emphasized that the students would be building individual projects. 

Fantastic Foam Flyer in Flight

Male or female constructing something with their hands does not appear to be an experience that many children have had.  I always bring completed sample models and talk about the constructions steps. Building the Syringe Hydraulic Arm on Wednesday was a more difficult project and my accuracy in creating these kits was less than perfect. I would go through one step but then need to help half the class because they couldn’t understand or just did not want to try. Some of the students did try on their own and were successful when they realized I was just too busy to help them. At the end of the class I offered to take home the unfinished projects and bring back for the final day.  One student I talked to when leaving the class told me she had done some woodworking at home, she completed the project with no help from me.  That is really good in that I never had enough time to explain the rest of the steps because I was too busy helping.

Teaching this College for Kids class is my testing grounds for the projects on my website where I get to see what kids struggle with or what goes well. I try to make improvements on the projects for another year and revise the website  I feel I learn much from this also as it forces you to be more organized; think of what might go wrong, and create a system to distribute the materials as quickly as possible.  The next day after completing a project I discuss with the class what went well and what did not.  I left the mousetrap cars for the last day project as these are commercially produced kits by Doc Fizzix and the accuracy of the kit is better than what I have created.

Airplane Kits Created using Sealable Plastic Bags

Syringe Hydraulic Arms

There are times I question why I spend my vacation time doing this which can be rather stressful. I have to believe that the students and I gain something from the experience. On my website I have added advertising and use the small amount of money created by this to help pay for materials for classes. For sure I appreciate more the job that full-time teachers do with many more students. I hope that maybe out of all the students that have gone through my class over the years at least a few might wish to pursue science or engineering.

 Bill Kuhl


  1. Looks like most kids are cutting their teeth in your class. It is a valuable skill to work with your hands and brain. Maybe you could start with a simpler kit?

  2. I start with FPG-9 gliders and the foam helicopters the first day which is about as easy as it gets. I am thinking about how to simplify the Syringe Hydraulic Arm, maybe the syringes could be attached with Zip ties.

  3. Great job getting these kids involved.

  4. Here is a way to quickly expand the RC hobby/sport. Teach the teachers