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Kids Get Hands-On At White Plains Engineering Expo

North Salem High School senior Cecilia Diehl shows kids how to construct a building using marshmallows and toothpicks at the 10th annual Lower Hudson Valley Engineering EXPO in White Plains.
North Salem High School senior Cecilia Diehl shows kids how to construct a building using marshmallows and toothpicks at the 10th annual Lower Hudson Valley Engineering EXPO in White Plains. Photo Credit: Nathan Bruttell

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – North Salem High School senior Cecilia Diehl couldn’t help but smile as she looked around at the bright eyes and young minds fascinated about science Sunday afternoon at the 10th annual Lower Hudson Valley Engineering EXPO at White Plains High School.

The 17-year-old was one of hundreds of high school students from around Westchester County who displayed engineering projects to younger students at a special middle school activity room at the expo. Several school districts around the county do not feature engineering programs, organizers said, and the EXPO offered a unique opportunity to teach the younger generations more about the practical and real-world uses of physics and engineering while having fun.

“I think it’s really great because it brings a lot of younger people into a place where engineering is cool,” Diehl said Sunday. “They can see that engineering is fun and interesting and allows you to be creative. Engineering is a lot of fun because there is a real world connection there and everything you do can be used in the real world and help make all of our lives better.”

Learning about engineering at a younger age could help more students realize that there is a great future in it, said Ossining High School senior Dean Schifilliti.

“This has been a really fun experience for me because I’ve been able to see that it’s not just our generation who is interested in engineering and the sciences,” Schifilliti said. “it’s great to see there are so many younger kids who are interested in it as well.”

From learning to build stable support structures that can guard against earthquakes using marshmallows and toothpicks to building bridges on a budget, the projects at this year’s activity center allowed younger students to get hands-on and have fun while learning about engineering and physics. This year’s EXPO also featured a competition and students at Rye Brook High School invented a water dispersal method that would divert flood waters like those from Superstorm Sandy.

“My favorite part was building and making it and figuring out how to do it because it’s something people needed and this could have helped,” said 13-year-old student Vivek Malhotra. “But the best part is that we got to decide what to do rather than being told how to build something.”

EXPO co-coordinator JoAnn Rerek said she believes the EXPO could be the spark that lights the fire to getting more students interested in engineering at a younger age.

“By the time a kid gets to high school, they’re already deciding what to do,” Rerek said. “I really believe that in middle school, a lot of these kids don’t even know that they could be interested in science, engineering and math. If they see that it’s fun and useful at a young age, maybe more of them will have that interest when they get older.”

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