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Kids Launch Marshmallows, Build Towers at the U

Three elementary school students use drinking straws to build tall towers that can withstand wind gusts during 2012's Elementary Engineering Week at the University of Utah. This year's event takes place March 25-29.

March 20, 2013 – The University of Utah’s College of Engineering will host more than 1,500 elementary school students March 25-29 for the college’s annual Elementary Engineering week, designed to spark enthusiasm for engineering at an early age.

Each day between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., 350 fifth and sixth graders from around the Salt Lake Valley will assemble in the ballroom of the university’s Olpin Union building. Elementary Engineering Week is not open to the public, but news media are invited to cover the event.

Students will participate in contests such as launching marshmallows from catapults and constructing towers from drinking straws – activities that illustrate science and math principles used by engineers. Contests will be judged on accuracy and design by university engineering undergraduates.

“This event serves as a wonderful opportunity to introduce the world of engineering to young students and convey the importance of learning math and science in school,” says Deidre Schoenfeld, outreach and diversity coordinator for the College of Engineering. “We hope this event helps students understand that engineers help positively change the world by using math and science, and hopefully some of these students might one day consider becoming engineers themselves.”

This year’s activities are:

  • Straw Towers Contest – Students use drinking straws to build tall towers that can withstand wind gusts. Prizes are awarded for the tallest standing towers.
  • Catapult Contest – Schools bring their own small catapults for demonstrations in which jumbo marshmallows are launched at a pie tin target 12 feet away. Prizes are awarded to teams that hit the target.
  • Fish Blitz Contest – Clay “fish” are pulled by a weight through a tank of water. Students can change the shape of their fish, which makes them move more quickly or slowly through the water. Prizes are awarded for both the fastest and slowest fish.

Phillips Petroleum has donated $10,000 to support math and science programs. It will be divided among schools participating in Elementary Engineering Week to provide books and supplies.

More information about the College of Engineering is available at: