Engineering Summer Camps bring currents to life for students

8/27/2009 - By: Jon Fortenbury

Dr. Jim Henson, Associate Chair of the Electrical and Biomedical Engineering Department at the University of Nevada, Reno, gave a hands-on lecture on Tuesday, July 28 to a summer camp of 12-16-year-olds. The lecture, titled “Electric Currents, Capacitors, Wires, and Coils,” took place in SEM 346 and lasted for an hour.

“The purpose of the camps is really to educate kids (ages 12-16) about the different fields of engineering that are offered at UNR by presenting fun hands-on lessons and activities,” said Debbie DeLauer, K-12 Outreach Coordinator for the UNR College of Engineering.

The kids, mostly in middle school and from many different schools in the Washoe Valley, learned a variety of lessons, such as the science behind lighting a bulb and what happens if you vary any of the components. The students also learned how capacitors and coils work as well as the relations between moving charge and magnetic fields. After the lecture, they went outside to watch an electromagnetic can crusher demo. In-class demonstrations included an Ion Lifter, a Reluctance-based Particle Accelerator, and a Marx Generator.

Many of the lessons were hands-on. Dr. Henson showed the kids how to set up an experiment. Then they would mimic the experiment using the equipment at their tables. The kids expressed sincere interest in the topic – leaving their seats to come as close as possible to each demonstration, asking questions and answering all the questions Henson asked them.

Henson thought the lecture went very well and that the kids were really involved.
“It gave them a little taste of what electrical engineering is,” he said.

Henson volunteers his time for three weeks in the summer months to help out, even though he’s technically on vacation.

“He always makes the lessons meaningful, challenging, and enjoyable for the students,” DeLauer said. “His support of our summer camps is greatly appreciated.”


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