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Gilbert High students entertain second-graders at the fair

LEXINGTON, S.C. — For one day only, the fair came to Gilbert Primary School. Vendors didn’t sell funnel cakes or popcorn, but dozens of miniature amusement park rides designed and built by Gilbert High engineering students captured the imagination of GPS second-graders at the November 21 STEM Day. 

Through model rides, the GPS students could clearly see how science, technology, engineering and mathematics play important roles in the operation of similar amusement rides they may see at the S.C. State Fair or amusement park. Enthralled by the tabletop rollercoasters, they watched engineering in action as small motors powered some rides, while other rides faced onsite repairs.

As Second-Grader Kohner Bouknight thought about recreating the car-racing ride, he said, “You can’t just go ahead and start building without doing research. You have to use math and measuring to get it right.”

The interactive nature of the amusement rides gave GHS students opportunities to talk with the second-graders about concepts ranging from gravity to kinetic energy. GHS STEM Instructor Dana Byars believes the event also allowed her students to brush up on their presentation and communication skills. “As engineers must do, the students catered their product to their audience,” she said. “They get to be role models.”

The STEM Day projects and lessons meet the science standards at both schools. GPS STEM Instructor Koleen Taylor said the event pairs with the second-graders’ upcoming unit on balance and motion. “This demonstration and discussion of how their projects work will introduce and reinforce vocabulary for this unit and help our students visualize movement,” she said.

For future STEM Day events, Byars plans to expand the project to include more GPS students and to challenge her engineering students to make their rides even more interactive.

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