University of Utah engineering program catapults interest in engineering for Saint Vincent de Paul students

SALT LAKE CITY — Saint Vincent de Paul School sixth-graders attended the Elementary Engineering Week hosted by the University of Utah’s College of Engineering in March. This free program at the university introduces students in grades five and six to the field of engineering while learning practical applications of engineering concepts and scientific principles.
This was the first time Saint Vincent de Paul School was selected to participate in the daylong program.
The activities included building straw towers that implemented structural engineering and design principles, constructing paper boats to float on water and test buoyant force by seeing how many bolts they could hold before sinking, and participating in a “Fish Blitz” race, in which student teams constructed fish out of clay and raced them across water.
The goal of the race was to design either the quickest or slowest fish in the sea using the scientific principle of water resistance.
Team Sloths, comprised of Saint Vincent students Trevor McMillan, Olivier Baende, Atlas Tran, Bagat Alor and Jess Chisholm, won the Slowest Fish of Clay award.
Each class was also asked to bring a working catapult that had been designed and built by a student and be able to launch a large marshmallow into an aluminum pie tin target placed 12 feet away. Dr. Teresa Mucsi, middle school science instructor, oversaw the Saint Vincent students and conducted a class contest to determine which catapult they would take to the university.
“The students were definitely motivated to construct and test their catapults. In addition, this was an excellent activity that complied with the engineering part of our new Next Generation Science Standards curriculum,” Mucsi said.
St. Vincent de Paul sixth-grader Max Toner built the winning catapult in the class, with Teo Kjolseth coming in a close second place. At the university, both students represented the class and demonstrated on stage how well Toner’s catapult worked by launching marshmallows at a target as they competed against other schools’ winning designs.
“I thought it would be cool to bring Teo up with me because he was close behind me in our class catapult contest,” Toner said. “It was a little nerve-wracking to compete against kids from other schools, but I like a challenge and it certainly gave me one.  I thought the day was really fun and a good experience.”