On a rainy and drowsy evening of November 8, 2017, the boys of Carter Woodson Middle School were excited to start an exciting engineering activity that would test their skills of quick construction, critical thinking, and artistic designing. The boys were challenged to use a tape, string, and recycled paper towel and toilet paper rolls to design a track to race their marbles. The goal for the activity was to see the importance of how track and transportation engineers are required to think and build smoothly for automobiles. In addition, the challenge included who can build the longest and sturdiest track for the marble to run through. After explaining the activity and challenge, Jacari excitedly said “Oooooooo, my race track is going to be the BIGGEST!” After explaining how bridges are so important from the last program session, this activity tied in well as the building of bridges were refreshed and implemented into creating a whole “race” track for the marble to run through.
Because of the competition this Marble Race challenge naturally brought to the boys’ attention, each boy decided to design his own track differently. I saw how Jacari even used his environment around him to make his design more effectively. He utilized book bags, chairs, and books to levitate his track up and down. His understanding of using physics and gravity came naturally as he told me, “First my marble gotta be set up high to go fast down, and then when it’s down, because it’s fast, it will come back up.” It’s amazing to see how their young minds can work and think of ways differently.
After every boy finished his own track, we all decided to give the final test with the marbles to see who had the longest run. The boys were asked followed up questions in conclusion about the activity to start a discussion. Some boys mentioned that they had to complete and run a lot of their own tests with the marble to see if their track was working efficiently every time they built and added a new part to it. They learned a lot about how this is related in not only in science and engineering, but also how life is all about experimentation: Everything is trial and error, and we must keep trying until we succeed.
Written By: Adrian Villarreal