On April 7, four College of Engineering students donated their time, energy, and knowledge to the so-called “Carnival of Learning” by teaching about 55 youngsters from the John Duggan Middle School in Springfield the importance of education beyond high school. The college students, who belong to the campus chapters of the National Society of Black Engineers and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, gave the kids a crash course in engineering by demonstrating how to extract DNA from strawberries and showing them how to build a better “mousetrap car,” solely powered by one standard-sized mousetrap. The engineering students on hand were chemical engineering major Beatrice Luzgin and three majors from the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, Nangelie Ferrer, Eduardo Manta, and Sam Del Pilar.
The College of Engineering students were the only ones from UMass Amherst who participated in the event, which was sponsored by the Massachusetts Association of Financial Aid Administrators Early Awareness and Outreach Committee and took place at the middle school on Wilbraham Road in Springfield, just across the street from Western New England College. The UMass students had their own booth at the event, and demonstrated the DNA and mousetrap lessons to ten groups of approximately six students apiece, with each demonstration lasting ten minutes.
The DNA demonstration involved mashing up a strawberry for several minutes in a plastic bag, adding a DNA extraction buffer of shampoo, distilled water, and NaCl, filtering the solution through a coffee filter into a paper cup, pouring part of this substance into a test tube, and adding a bit of cold ethanol. And voila! The DNA rose like cream to the top.
The other demonstration consisted of the students designing and building their own one-mouse-power car out of a mousetrap and such materials as string, rubber bands, straws, and butter tub lids (the wheels) and then testing it on a five-meter track.