Cool Café write up by Samantha Blackmore, Teen Leader
At our most recent VTeen 4-H Science Pathways Café on February 2nd, we had 71 teens welcome members from UVM’s Alternative Energy Racing Organization. AERO is a club dedicated to the study, implementation, and building of hybrid race cars. The AERO team showcases their work in multi-level competitions throughout the year. The speed, endurance, and durability of these hand built cars must be vigorously tested through a series of test runs. These test runs provide information on their vehicles and confirm that they are functioning properly and are top quality.
The AERO team began with a description of the club’s purpose. They provided a step by step procedure of building a technologically advanced car from the ground up. Essentially, they begin the complex process of designing the model using special engineering software. They then work on the diagrams of the various circuits and chips used to control all of the components of the car before the purchasing their supplies. Finally, they can work on the actual construction of the vehicle.
For the rest of the café, we did participated in a hands on activity where the AERO team members set up 5 different activities and participants spent 20 minutes at each one.
Hands on Activity
At station one, a member of AERO passed around various circuit boards designed to operate multiple components of the car. We specifically studied a board that worked to function the air conditioning panel, and the teens were able to touch and look at the complex copper wiring, tubes, and connections throughout the small chip. We were also shown the software used to design these elaborate boards and given a glimpse into the multi-step process. Most importantly, participants in the first activity learned the importance of circuit boards and the numerous applications they have in modern technology, as well as their own daily lives.
At station two, participants constructed a flow of electricity, inherently creating a magnet using wire, a nail, a battery, and tape. Wire was tightly coiled around the middle of the nails and then secured firmly with a piece of masking tape. As the participants held the loose ends of the wire to each side of a battery and then dragged the contraption over the table, their creation was able to collect and pick up staples, paper clips, and other small metal pieces. This activity showed the flow of electricity through connection, and helped the teens visually conceptualize this phenomenon.
The following activity, station number three, was quite similar. Another kind of electric current was created, by drawing two wide lines of graphite on paper (each about 2 cm thick and 1 cm apart), holding a small LED bulb on one end, and rubbing a charged battery on the other end. Teens observed as their bulbs light up, signaling that a flow of electricity had commenced. Teens also observed that some colored bulbs were more difficult to light, and attributed this to higher energy requirements for certain wavelengths of light to be produced.
Heading over to station number four, we created our own batteries using vinegar, small squares of paper, pennies, nickels, and dimes. Teens stacked these components in specific orders to generate more effective stores of energy, and were able to understand the inner structure of batteries. We also learned the application and implementation of effectively constructed batteries in vehicles and other modern technology.
At station number five, teens were able to play around with model plastic circuit boards, by following instruction or by constructing their own designs. We were able to create flows of electricity to generate a police siren, spin a small windmill, and more.
Overall, this cafe was incredibly informative, as participating teens got a glance into not only the technology behind motorized vehicles, but also their applications in other modern electronics. The participants learned the importance of being able to understand engineering and mechanics, as there are many valuable concepts which can be helpful for future careers and inventions, and most importantly, the advancement of the human race and our current knowledge! As the entire foundation of our technology is based off of the study of electrons, atoms, physics, engineering, etc., it is a significant talent to be able to understand these complex ideas and apply them in order to continue developing humanity’s erudition.
Learn more about UVM AERO at https://www.uvmaero.org/