Boeing Youth Lab Launches PE Students

Boeing Global Engagement hosted more than 100 Project Exploration students during their annual Youth Lab on January 23rd, 2020. Students from three west side elementary schools (Nash, Plato, and Depriest), were tasked by Boeing engineers to build rockets, using information provided during the lead Boeing engineers’ presentations. The engineers introduced themselves to our young learners as representatives not only of the Boeing company, but also as members of communities much like their own. Teachers from each of the schools remarked on how meaningful the experience was for their students. One teacher said, “It’s moments like these, [with] kids navigating solutions on their own with guides that look like them, that makes what we do matter.”

Many students expressed excitement at the opportunity to be in downtown Chicago. As they toured the Boeing offices, students questioned the engineers asking, “How can [we] work in this place?” Boeing engineers were encouraging, sharing their own life stories, providing a road map for many of our students, and acting as real-life role models. These trips expose our students to new environments and offer an opportunity to interact with the encouraging staff. The spirit of “you can be here!” was displayed by Boeing staff, school supporters, and PE team members.

Designing using Engineering Principles

Students were completely engaged throughout the Engineering Design Process, a six-step system that engineers use to create functional products and procedures. First, students ASK, identifying needs and constraints of the challenge. Students were tasked with creating a rocket, from paper and tape supplied by Boeing, into the shape of a real-life rocket. Next, students RESEARCH, gathering information about torque, drag, and lift from Boeing engineers, all in hopes of creating a rocket that will fly the farthest. Then, students IMAGINE. This can be the most engaging or the most frustrating part of the design process. Students visualize possible solutions in their teams and debate their ideas! A few students were stuck and uninspired, repeatedly declaring “I don’t know how to do this.” The Boeing team gently nudged these students in the right direction, reminding them of their prior knowledge and that they were already one third of the way there!

Students then PLAN, selecting the most promising solution and designing a process for its implementation. Moving forward, students CREATE, prototyping their planned solution with the materials Boeing provided. The result was a flurry of paper, tape, glue, and scissors as 25 teams raced to create a rocket. Once the rocket is ready, students TEST, evaluating their prototypes by measuring the flight distance. Then, students IMPROVE, redesigning rockets as needed based on information gathered during testing. Teams had two opportunities for test flights before final scores were tabulated. Finally, the student teams gathered together to watch as each rocket was tested and flew!

Nash Elementary Rocket Winners

Students from Nash Elementary were the winners of the Rocket Challenge! Daikiya, Nia, and Victoria designed a rocket that went the farthest through the three rounds of competition. The girls received gold medals for their efforts and their achievements were highlighted at their school.

We are very proud of our students who displayed courteous sportsmanship and ingenuity during this challenge. We are grateful to Boeing for hosting our students and offering them this engaging educational experience. Victoria summed up the day on the bus ride home when she asked, “Can we come here every week?”

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