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Berlin Middle-High School Science and Technology classes had their annual visit from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Ambassadors on March 4. Ms. Elizabeth Herkenham, Education Outreach Director for the School of Engineering, coordinated the visit with Berlin Science teacher, Mrs. Amanda Hayes.

Eight RPI Engineering Ambassadors came to present to the students at Berlin Middle- High School. An RPI Engineering Ambassador is a student who participates in a work-study K-12th grade outreach program. The Ambassadors set out to inspire younger students by talking about and demonstrating different engineering opportunities.

This program is achieved through classroom presentation and hands-on learning. The presentations included the newest technological breakthroughs and some real-world challenges yet to be overcome.

Junior Civil Engineering major, Chyim Bowen, and sophomore Bryan McKeever, a Mechanical Engineering major, presented on “Fighting Forest Fires.” They explained the many ways in which engineers play critical roles in firefighting methods and designing gear.

Chyim and Bryan discussed the newest technologies for improving efficiency in fighting forest fires as well as the important gear developments to protect the firefighters.

Berlin students were asked to “think like engineers” and solve a thermal conductivity challenge themselves. They were given a budget and a materials price list to come up with the most efficient and effective way to insulate a S’more from heat.

This fun challenge was a basic way to approach a serious task for engineers in designing gear that protects firefighters and their equipment. The Ambassadors helped the students see how engineers have to be creative and scientifically informed when tackling important designs.

Sophomore Matthew Behar, an Aeronautical/Mechanical Engineering major, and junior Anand Gandhi, an Industrial Management Engineering major, gave a presentation on “Industrial and Management Engineering.”

The Ambassadors were able to show another type of engineering that may have not been on many of the student’s radars before. Industrial and Management Engineering focuses on optimizing efficiency for businesses, hospitals and other large-scale organizations.

Engineers in this field work with time, cost, and effectiveness in order to create the best and most accurate use of time, space and financial investment.

The Berlin students were given a challenge to see how they could manage a hospital. This involved rooms, staff, and equipment and how to use them with the most efficiency and cost-effectiveness. It was an opportunity for students to understand Management Engineering and how important it is to industries.

RPI sophomore Lilian Murphy, a Biomedical Engineering major, and senior Katherine Cianciotti, a Chemical Engineering major, gave a “Cell and Tissue Engineering” presentation. The Ambassadors discussed how, through engineering, the capacity to regenerate organs and tissue outside of the body is steadily improving.

Science is working toward eliminating the need for organ transplants. In the activity, the Berlin students worked in teams to create “organs” out of synthetic material.

“Getting into Orbit” was the last presentation available to the science and technology students. Sophomores Lucas Jones, Mechanical Engineering major, and Sonu Chadalavada, Aerospace Engineering major, led this lesson.

They RPI students focused on physics and mathematical concepts. They discussed the three stages of how a space shuttle achieves its earth orbit: Lift, Ascent, and Orbit.

This was an exciting hands-on activity for the Berlin students. They were given Alka-Seltzer tablets as a propellant along with a scale and water. The challenge was to get their shuttle (a film holder case) to launch the five feet required to achieve orbit.

This took fine-tuning of their measurements and many attempts to get the exact right lift and a height of five feet to get to orbit. It was a fun lab for the students and another great example of how important and exciting engineering is.

For over ten years, Berlin Middle-High School has been participating in RPI’s Ambassador Program, which continues to impress and inspire the students. The Ambassadors also took time to answer questions about how they found their passion for engineering and what it is like to be a college student.

Thank you to the RPI Ambassadors again this year, and to the Berlin science and technology students for their insightful questions and enthusiasm during the visit.