Access Engineering At Penn

Offering free and accessible college-level engineering labs to high-school students

Lesson 8 – Chemical Engineering and Computer Science

On Saturday April 25th, Access Engineering held their 8th and final lesson of the semester. One of the groups participated in the chemical engineering lab. Students used high-resolution cameras to determine the hydrophobicity of different materials by finding the contact angle. They also used knowledge of these kinds of materials to separate water and oil. A different group continued to work on their Java programming, where they learned about methods and the difference between public and private definitions. The final group completed their work with the mechanical engineering branch when they assembled and tested their catapults.

The advanced section finished up their CAD parts from previous weeks. Students designed and printed objects such as a stick-shift handles and super hero logos.

The Access Engineering team was extremely happy to have all the students we had this year. As the first year of the program since it’s reformation, there was a lot of trial and error throughout the year, and the students took it all in stride. We look forward to another great year next year with even better lessons and even more students. For first-semester Access Students, we would highly encourage you to apply for the second semester of programming that we offer.

Lesson 4 – Boe-Bots and Catapults, March 21st, 2015

This Saturday, Access Engineering had their fourth lesson of the semester, coming off a spring break for students and instructors alike. Some of the introductory sessions began working Boe-Bots, which are simple two-wheeled robots utilizing the Arduino system the students had begun working with the week before. Students created basic driving code and learned how to calibrate the servo drive values. They will be continuing to use these robots next week to make a robot that can follow a light source. The other introductory section continued their education in Java, learning about how to manipulate arrays and character strings. After their computer science lecture, the kids completed their 3-D printed catapults and competed against other teams to see which design was able to fire the furthest. From furthest to shortest, the scores for the teams are as follows:

The Winners 20’
Team SiCK 14’ 6”
Little Einstein’s 7’ 8”
Undefined 6’ 0”
Polymerase Chain Reaction 3’ 10”
F.D.D.C.O.D. 2’ 4.5”

The advanced section worked on designing a Boe-Bot, which they will code to be controlled with a small joystick. They will continue to be designing these parts in the coming weeks to finish the project by the end of the semester.

Lesson 3 – Hand Crank Engines and Arduinos, February 28th, 2015

This Saturday, Access Engineering held our third lesson of the semester. Some of the beginning sessions were introduced to the Arduino microcontroller and its coding environment. These sections controlled lights using a variety of sensors, including a photo resistor and a potentiometer. Next week, the students will use the fundamentals they learned in this lecture to create a simple two-wheeled robot that is able to follow a flashlight. The remaining beginning sections continued to work with the Java environment and began making applets today.

The advanced section continued working in the SolidWorks environment for the first half of the lesson today. Students designed a hand crank motor assembly. When a wheel on the project was turned, a set of pistons moved in and out of their cylinders. This was followed by a continuation of their computer science curriculum.

Lesson 2 – Piston Engines, Catapults and Basic Java, February 21st, 2015

Access Engineering had their second lesson of the semester this Saturday. The introductory groups continued to work on their SolidWorks parts for the impending catapult competition next week. Groups were allowed to work on their designs throughout the week so that the catapults could be 3-D printed over the next week. The other introductory session was given a number of small computer science challenges using skills they were taught last week. These challenges introduced students to the coding environment and learn about basic syntax.

The advanced mechanical engineering section embarked on a project today to make small crank motor with twin pistons. Students were encouraged to work out proportions for the parts and make design considerations rather than copying an existing part. In their following computer science section, the students reviewed loops and other fundamentals in preparation for the comprehensive robotics challenge they will complete at the end of the semester.

Lesson 1 – SolidWorks and Introductory Computer Science, February 17th, 2015

On Saturday, Access Engineering had their first lesson of the semester. Access had a record number of kids sign up for the program as such, and, after a successful round of recruiting new students, Access was able to accommodate all the students over four different classrooms in Penn’s engineering quad. The introductory classes focused on the basics of computer science, namely the Java language. Students learned about conditional statements, data types, and loops. The theoretical groundwork laid out in these whiteboard sessions will prepare students for programming assignments in the coming weeks. The advanced students embarked on a fast-paced review of the SolidWorks software system by designing puzzle pieces. These puzzle pieces will eventually be laser cut so the students can learn about the entire rapid prototyping process. Next week, these students will continue to review SolidWorks in preparation for a comprehensive review project.