August 29, 2008

For the LSU College of Engineering (CoE), the importance of developing and maintaining relationships to recruit and retain students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs cannot be underestimated. Research indicates that the majority of students, especially girls, have decided by middle school whether or not to investigate science and science-related courses. Without the encouragement of teachers, professionals, and opportunities to investigate science in fun, inquiry-based learning activities, students have limited information to base their future decisions for course study. The result is that they may not have taken the necessary preparatory classes to consider majoring in an engineering discipline in college.

LSU’s mechanical engineering (ME) professors and CoE staff have taken steps to introduce microtechnology and nanotechnology to nearly 45 middle school students in the Point Coupee community. Dr. Michael Murphy and Dr. Sunggook Park, ME professors, and Summer Dann of the CoE Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program (STEP) program facilitated inquiry-based, hands-on learning experiments: students built structures that illustrated the concepts of simple machines with Kinex pieces, tested the difference in surface textures manufactured by micro- and nano-technologies, and toured the microfabrication laboratory in Atkinson Hall on the LSU campus.

After the engineering presentations and tours, students met with Dr. George Stanley and Dr. Bill Branch for chemistry and environmental demonstrations. The tour was arranged by Dr. Brenda Nixon, Co-Director of the Gordon A. Cain Center for Scientific, Mathematical, Engineering and Technological Literacy, located in Prescott Hall.

In teaching the basics of micro- and nanotechnology, the professors have opened the door for imagination and shown the creativity of scientists and engineers. Showing that science is fun, and that the design process is creative, may be enough to encourage students to enroll in chemistry, physics and math courses in high school in order to be better prepared for college.

Article by Summer Dann-Johnson, LSU College of Engineering, 225-578-8195,

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