Rachel Langley has built more boats than most science teachers.
The Jenks High School chemistry teacher has used the boat-building challenge at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa’s Engineering Design Challenge in her classroom to get students interested in science, math and engineering.
“Sometimes students who aren’t normally successful doing the math work in the classroom can find success in the actual building of the boat,” Langley said. “Often times, this enables a different group of students to experience success in science. It’s not only about the academics. It’s about quick thinking and perseverance.
Langley has integrated the parts of the challenge into her science curriculum. The students who build the best boats at a qualifying competition in Langley’s class get to attend the Engineering Design Challenge to represent Jenks High School.
Langley’s students will be among the nearly 200 Tulsa-area elementary, middle and high school students attending the 11th OSU-Tulsa Engineering Design Challenge on Thursday, Feb. 21. During the event, a part of National Engineering Week, teams of students are tasked with building the fastest boat. Each team is provided with the same materials and must design, construct and race a self-propelled watercraft.
Led by the OSU-Tulsa engineering faculty, the challenge provides an opportunity for students to apply basic principles of engineering design, problem-solving and teamwork.
“The OSU-Tulsa Engineering Design Challenge combines science and engineering education in a fun environment,” said Dr. Carl Latino, associate professor of electrical engineering. “We’re pleased that this event has grown each year and that the students have responded so well.”
The Engineering Design Challenge is sponsored by Spirit Aerosystems of Tulsa. Several engineers from Spirit will volunteer to help students by answering questions during the Challenge.
“Spirit AeroSystems is proud to partner with OSU-Tulsa in its eleventh year of the Engineering Design Challenge,” said Mark Walker, senior manager for communications and government relations at Spirit AeroSystems. “We are intent on doing our part to see that young people are equipped with the skills necessary to be successful in the workplace. Together, our team and the great staff of OSU have watched this program grow and become the model for a public private partnership effort to bring engineering to K12 students. We wish OSU and the kids another great year.”
OSU-Tulsa student, faculty and staff volunteers will also assist teams during the design and construction phases, providing helpful hints and generally assisting all aspects of the construction process.
“It’s interesting to see the students creatively come up with different solutions to the same task,” Latino said. “Each group is given the same materials, but each boat turns out completely different.”
Langley devotes class time talking to students about laboratory process and end results.
“I try to encourage my students to focus on how to improve processes each time we get results,” said Langley. “This design competition is an excellent example of implementing a design and then tweaking to get better results.”
Teams have to try to maximize thrust while minimizing drag to produce a competitive boat. To be successful they need to take into consideration stability, propeller design, buoyancy and more.
Timed boat races are conducted in 10-foot long, water-filled PVC “half pipe” race tracks in the Main Hall Commons at OSU-Tulsa. Awards are given in categories such as fastest boat, aesthetics and teamwork.
To learn more about the OSU-Tulsa Engineering Design Challenge, visit www.osu-tulsa.okstate.edu/engineeringdesignchallenge.