Undergraduate fosters excitement for engineering among Champaign youth

11/25/2013

MechSE's Nathan Dostart teaches basic engineering principles.
MechSE's Nathan Dostart teaches basic engineering principles.
MechSE undergraduate Nathan Dostart has started a unique program at Stratton Elementary school in Champaign. Once a week for several weeks, he’ll visit Zanne Newman’s 4th grade class to introduce her students to different types of engineering, in the hopes of sparking excitement for the field of study and to demonstrate the wide variety of problems that engineers solve.

Dostart said he is grateful for the chance to work with the students and expose them to engineering at an early age. He said that when he was in elementary school he was never really introduced to engineering concepts, and he hopes his efforts at Stratton will inspire at least one of the children in the class to pursue engineering or another STEM field.

Based on the students’ responses so far, that seems likely. Dostart taught them simple mechanical engineering principles by having them create a device to launch cotton balls. And the activity did not end when Dostart left.

"Our cotton balls are still flying," Newman said. "The kids have been tinkering with them all day to get them to work better!"

Dostart said it’s not just the 4th graders who have benefitted.

"It was very refreshing to work with young students. College-level engineering is a lot of hard work, and it can be easy to lose sight of why I decided to become an engineer when slogging through unending piles of homework. Seeing the kids get really excited about trying to create a good design, test it out, and improve it was a nice reminder of what motivated me to become an engineer in the first place."

Dostart shares his passion for engineering with Stratton Elementary students.
Dostart shares his passion for engineering with Stratton Elementary students.
Students learned about the variety of problems that engineers try to solve.
Students learned about the variety of problems that engineers try to solve.