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The Popsicle prosthetic arm and other science challenges

October 1, 2010

Ever have one of those days when you’re trying to build a prosthetic arm out of Popsicle sticks, and you just need a little extra encouragement and instruction? Yeah, MacGuyver, we’ve had those, too.  And this Saturday, a lot of people – science teachers from all over Southern California – will converge upon Chapman University to learn how to make manila-folder bridges, mousetrap cars, balsa-wood aircraft and, yes, those prosthetic arms – during the Southern MESA Advisor Regional Training (SMART) workshops being held in Beckman Hall.

New to the Chapman campus and headquartered within the College of Educational Studies, MESA (Mathematics, Engineering Science Achievement program) provides science education programs to more than 20,000 students at 25 centers throughout California.  Chapman’s center serves more than 1,000 students in grades 6-12 in Santa Ana, Orange, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Anaheim, Placentia and Whittier, says Vonna Hammerschmitt, program director.

Frank Frisch, Ph.D., professor in CES and Schmid College and director of Chapman’s STAR (Science Teaching and Research) Program, and Vonna Hammerschmitt, director of Chapman’s MESA center.

At Saturday’s event, about 90 middle school and high school science teachers from Orange County, Riverside, San Diego, Lynwood, Compton and Imperial Valley will meet at Chapman to receive hands-on training for the various projects MESA students experience in their MESA classes or after-school programs.   Workshops will include the design and construction of a popsicle-stick prosthetic arm (sensitive enough to pick up a paper cup!), construction of a windmill that is tested for power and reaction to wind direction, design and construction of small cars powered by the snap of a mousetrap, and design and construction of balsa-wood gliders.   The teachers will carry these project ideas back to their students, says Hammerschmitt, and in the spring, MESA will hold local and regional student competitions for the best design and construction of these items.

We’ll have more on this next week, with photos and video!

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