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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Engineering Ambassadors visited the Berlin Middle-High School on March 29. The visit was part of RPI’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) off-campus program to stimulate students’ curiosity in engineering.

Berlin Middle-High school science classes attended and participated in three engineering presentations that demonstrated engineering in everyday life. The presentations were on biosensors, reaction action and oil spills.

Mechanical engineering ambassadors Candy Zhang and Francesca LaPinta discussed biosensors, devices used to measure activity like heart rate or glucose inside the body. The RPI presentation talked about the importance of collaboration between scientists and engineers in creating biosensors to better understand our health.

Berlin students performed an electrocardiogram reading using a biosensor. After the reading the RPI ambassadors showed students how the data is interpreted and what it would be used for.
Mechanical engineering ambassador Allison Douglas and environmental/civil engineering ambassador Mary Finnerty, talked about oil spills. The discussion was on the important role engineering plays in both preventing and cleaning up these environmental disasters.

The Berlin students were able to experiment with three methods of oil-spill cleanup. The most efficient one, with the least environmental impact, was a newly engineered polymerization method. The students showed excitement when testing this polymer first-hand.

Chemical engineering ambassador Casey Collette and civil engineering ambassador Carly Nadler gave a presentation called “reaction action.” This discussion and lab focused on chemical reactions in everyday life.

Students were able to perform an “elephant toothpaste” experiment. This experiment involves rapid decomposition of hydrogen peroxide using potassium iodide and resulting in a colorful foam eruption. The ambassadors demonstrated a speedier reaction, showing the students how changing the concentration of hydrogen peroxide can impact the experiment.

The RPI ambassadors encouraged discussions about what life is like as an engineering student and what their own plans were after graduation. These included environmental clean-up, medical technology and teaching.

The middle and high school science classes were especially excited to participate in the lab portion of the engineering presentations. The bonus was Berlin students gaining insight on life as a college student pursuing a passion.