MSOE’s NASA Robotics Mining Team hosted an outreach event in March with children from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Milwaukee. The team of MSOE students participating in the NASA Robotic Mining Competition are required to host a community outreach event per competition rules. The group of students had already met this requirement in December by inviting girls from the Notre Dame Middle School of Milwaukee but the wanted to reach more children who are interested in the STEM fields. The goal of this event was to introduce and increase younger students’ interest in engineering by having them build rockets. All of the participating children, ages 8-12, come from a single parent household which are not commonly found to have a future career in a STEM field.

At the beginning of the event, students sat in on presentations that described what engineers do, information about the NASA competition, and were presented some engineering concepts to incorporate into their designs. Concepts of air drag and the forces exerted on rockets were introduced as well as the different parts that make up a rocket.

The requirements for the project required students to design and build the rockets out of everyday materials while being judged on aesthetics, cost and the distance traveled. Students were given a budget to purchase supplies which taught them how to handle budget constraints. The MSOE students acted as consultants to the children, making it entirely up to the children to use their knowledge to create their rockets. Materials used involved PVC pipe, paper, index cards, cardboard and different kinds of tape. Students used markers to personalize their rockets and to gain points in the aesthetics category. At the end of the event the students were excited about taking their rockets and new knowledge home with them.

Students commented on how fun the event was and that they gained decision-making skills and learned how to manage time and money. MSOE students enjoyed seeing how focused and determined the children were during the event. MSOE’s NASA Mining Competition Team hopes to keep hosting events like this to increase young students’ interests about science, robotics and engineering.