UA’s Formula SAE Crimson Racing team is taking part in the Learn Twice Initiative by teaching third graders at Tuscaloosa Magnet School about science, technology, engineering and math and how they can use the skills they are learning now in their future careers.
“The overall goal is to reach out to these students and get them thinking about problem-solving ideas. It’s a STEM project, but the problem-solving concepts within the project itself can be translated to a lot of things,” said Oakley Prell, sophomore mechanical engineering major and Crimson Racing business lead. “We’re just wanting them to get hands-on experience, see what’s out there, talk about what we’re doing in our engineering curriculum and inspire them to think about problem-solving in the real world.”
Through this initiative, UA students are teaching third graders in the gifted program at Tuscaloosa Magnet School about engineering by having the younger students go through a full engineering design process from start to finish. The curriculum the team used was on an eighth-grade level.
“They have been teaching us about gliders and about selling and who we’re selling stuff to,” said third-grade student Austin Sandel. “We’re talking about aerodynamics and how it will work with maneuverability and weight and drag.”
The project specifically includes the elementary students creating gliders and acting as designers for a toy company. The full process includes basics of the engineering design, market research, several prototyping stages and testing.
“I think it’s good for [the students] because we’re older than them, so they look up to us naturally. But when we can bring ourselves to their level and try to explain it to them, they can see the different opportunities available in the STEM fields and also with problem-solving in general,” Prell said.
Crimson Racing team members, Tuscaloosa Magnet School students and Magnet School enrichment teacher Diana McLoud all agree that this has been a positive experience for the third graders involved and will continue to benefit them in the future.
“The students’ enthusiasm for the unit has really increased,” McLoud said. “It is a wonderful way for them to apply what they learn. It helps them to understand that what they’re learning now could actually turn into a career.”
The UA students say the Learn Twice Initiative also has proven beneficial by giving them the opportunity to take what they have learned and break it down in a way that teaches it to the next generation of students.
“Being able to give back to the students is really good,” said Zach Froehlich, junior mechanical engineering major. “It’s awesome being able teach some of the students that might eventually use this as an opportunity to grow.”
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.