Fifth Annual YES! Expo Brings "Sport Science," Engineering Experiences to Ford Field
by Jennifer Donovan, public relations director
It promises to be a very hands-on, button-pushing kind of day. For nearly 15,000 Michigan middle and high school students, the future is coming to Ford Field on Thursday, Nov. 6, and it's a future filled with the excitement of designing things, making things happen, changing the world through engineering and science.
They'll be manipulating robots; operating simulated construction equipment; modulating noise, vibration and harshness in the cockpit of a car; meeting an astronaut; and seeing for themselves just how the mechanics of an underhand softball pitch differ from an overhand baseball pitch.
It's the Fifth Annual YES! Expo (Youth in Science and Engineering), a day of noisy, happy, high-energy activity, when students and teachers get to look, touch and try exhibits mounted by more than 50 corporate sponsors, including household names like Alcoa, Dow Chemical, Dow Corning, General Motors, Marathon Petroleum, and the Michigan Department of Transportation, and less-familiar giants in their fields, including Faurecia, FANUC Robotics, Hemlock Semiconductor, Michigan's Design and Construction Coalition and Yazaki North America.
Twenty-five universities, including YES! Expo founding sponsor Michigan Tech, will also display exhibits designed to get kids excited about educational programs that can prepare them to be engineers and scientists. Michigan Tech exhibits will include Admissions, Summer Youth Program, Super Mileage Enterprise, Sounds Design, Integrated Microsystems Enterprise, High School Enterprise, Surveying, Applied Sensory Psychology, School of Business, Computer Science, Forestry, Clean Snowmobile, Exercise Science & Physics, Nanotechnology, Alternative Fuels Group and Aerospace Engineering. The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences is hosting an Educators Cafe with resources for teachers.
Tech's Super Mileage team is expected to be a big hit at the expo this year. They'll be showcasing a student-designed vehicle that gets 457 miles per gallon.
Nine Tech students and Paul Bergstrom, advisor to the Integrated Microsystem Enterprise, are returning to YES! Expo. They were a highlight of the Michigan Tech display last year. They are bringing a model roller coaster with a point-of-view camera and an accelerometer.
Doug Oppliger and the Utica High School Enterprise team will be demonstrating their robotic underwater vehicle.
Cindy Bir, Detroit's own star of the Emmy Award-winning Fox Sports Network program "Sport Science," will give demonstrations of the forces involved in kicking a soccer ball or football, throwing a baseball or a softball, and how human motion can be captured—using instruments from her biomedical engineering lab at Wayne State University and student volunteers.
"Students in America are falling further and further behind in science and math," Bir observed. "But perhaps we can change this trend, turning them on to science by way of sports, showing them that science can be fun."
NASA astronaut Greg Johnson will talk with students about their possible futures in space, and a Dow Chemical chemist will use student helpers to conduct an experiment using common chemicals to change the temperature of water.
Faurecia, a leader in the design, development and production of a variety of product lines including automotive seating, vehicle interiors, front ends and exhaust systems, will introduce students to the cockpit of a vehicle, where they will discover how engineers tackle tough challenges such as noise, vibration and harshness of the ride.
The expo's goal is to open new doors to the future for Detroit-area students. Since it began in 2004, the YES! Expo has introduced nearly 50,000 young people to the exciting possibilities of careers in engineering, technology and science.
"In our present economy, any hope for the future lies in science, technology and engineering," said Pete Cattelino, who organizes the YES! Expo for Michigan Tech. "We want kids to see for themselves how exciting and rewarding jobs in those fields can be."
Surveys of students who attended past YES! Expos indicate that it's working. More than 85 percent report that their participation in YES! Expo gave them a much better understanding of the work that engineers do. Fully 90 percent said YES! Expo made them think more about continuing their education after graduating from high school, and more than 70 percent said it has made them decide to work harder in school.
Nearly one in four of the high school juniors and seniors who attended the last two YES! Expos contacted Michigan Tech for information about admission, said John Lehman, vice president of enrollment services.