Youth explored engineering at 2016 Family Fun Day

During spring break, Alpena youth engaged in a day full of family fun activities centered around engineering and science.

Youth and their families engaged in asking questions and discovering answers during the Family Fun Day on March 29, 2016, in Alpena, Michigan, hosted by the Alpena Optimist Club in partnership with Michigan State University Extension and numerous other agencies and organizations. Family Fun Day is held each year during spring break, providing youth of all ages and their families a fun day of activities and learning.

This years’ activities focused on engineering and engaged youth in a variety of short activities. The most popular activity encouraged youth to explore the volume of shapes. Youth hypothesized which shape was the largest, then tested their hypothesis by pouring beans into that container. Next, they poured the beans from that container into another container, comparing the volume of beans each container could hold. After discovering all the shapes had the same volume, they thought about which container they were more likely to buy and discussed which container would stack on a shelf better.

Youth also tested different types of bridges as well as explored the strength of arches. Youth and their families had the opportunity to engage in an activity to match manmade items with the nature-engineered items that inspired them. For example, youth discovered vines inspired the engineering of rope and that racing swimsuits were inspired by shark skin.

MSU Extension also provided an engineering challenge for those youth captivated by science exploration. Youth and their families were challenged to build a platform suspended between three upside down cups that would support a fourth cup placed in the center using only jumbo craft sticks. The cups were taped to the table so one craft stick could not reach between any two cups, but youth were provide with 40 sticks and encouraged to use their creativity. After each successful platform was built, youth were challenged to redesign and modify their platform to use less sticks. There were numerous successful platforms designed and built throughout the day. The design using the least number of sticks had only six craft sticks.

MSU Extension has a long history dedicated to 4-H Youth Development, of which science literacy is an important component (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Many families were introduced to MSU Extension and 4-H for the first time at the Family Fun Day. Families learned about the variety of clubs available in the area, how to join 4-H and how to become a 4-H volunteer. One of the more exciting clubs in Alpena, Michigan, is the Underwater ROV Club, supported by the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. This club uses the maker space at the sanctuary and engages youth in building remotely operated vehicles they can drive underwater in the test tank.

For more ways to share science with youth in your life, please explore the MSU Extension Science and Technology website. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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