In honor of National Engineers Week, Cal Poly Society of Women Engineers arranged over 40 volunteers to visit 31 fourth grade classrooms across the Central Coast as part of their annual Fourth Grade Days event. Before the event, teachers were sent a promo video to present to their class, which starred a princess being attacked by dragon, with nothing but everyday supplies to protect her (link to video). During the event, the students became part of the story as the smart princess needed the fourth graders’ help to build a device to defend her castle from a mean, grumpy dragon. When visiting classrooms, volunteers first gave a brief engineering presentation where they explained basic projectile motion as well as concepts such as precision and accuracy. At the end of the day, volunteers led the students in a catapult challenge where students were divided into teams of four and tasked to build a catapult. This activity was concluded with a competition where teams inventions were tested for by firing mini marshmallows at a dragon bullseye. Students were given no example or model for their catapult, encouraging them to use their imaginations and work with their teammates to come up with the best model for their device. When the time came to test their creation, they had three tries to hit the dragon, with the victorious team winning sweets.
This year, Fourth Grade Days reached almost 1000 students in just four days, almost doubling the previous record for the event. In an effort to outreach to underserved communities, many volunteers drove over half an hour to reach their classroom, thus giving students who might not normally have exposure to engineering a chance to meet role models and participate in an engineering challenge. The goal of this event was not only to introduce students to engineering, but also to encourage members of the Cal Poly community to give back through volunteering for and planning the event. Taking a subcommittee of fifteen people almost three months to prepare, this event also allowed members of the community to hone their leadership and project management skills while serving their community.