Expo inspires imagination among student engineers in Long Beach

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Can you imagine living in a city that never floods or can float in the air, and you can build a tower that won't topple during a powerful earthquake? Those ideas actually came from the minds of some Long Beach elementary students.

On Thursday, the students showed off their creations at an expo where engineering and imagination leaped to life. Some students experimented with making putty.

"You have to stir it until it gets nice and thick," a student told the group.

Others built roller coasters with foam and created structures with gumdrops and toothpicks.

"I did it! I have a crown," one boy shouted with pride.

Students at Harper McCaughan Elementary School took on all sorts of engineering challenges at the first ever Discovery Imagineer Expo.

"There's a national initiative to have more focus on STEM careers, and in Long Beach, we're really taking the bull by the horn so to speak," said Long Beach Schools Gifted Coordinator Deborah Holt.

The gifted students took on the role of mentors to students in regular classes. They explained the different careers in engineering like robotics, earthquake, and nuclear.

"I explain to the kids what nuclear engineers do, and they're just like normal people," said fourth grader Emma Marreel.

Each station featured a fun activity. For instance, at the mining engineering station, students were using sticks to poke at chocolate chip cookies.

"They have to try to get the chocolate chip out of the cookie without destroying the cookie," one student mentor explained.

"We've seen students who were very apathetic about learning in a regular classroom. When they come in and do these activities, they're excited. They're actively engaged. It's a wonderful project," said Holt.

The sixth grade gifted students had to design cities of the future that would solve a world problem.

"We want them to see the beauty of the ocean," one student said, as he showed off his team's underwater city covered with an imaginary force field.

"There's a lot of problems with transportation, and we are wasting trees, oxygen and all that. That's why we built something at the city hall that shoots oxygen all around the city," said sixth grader Kevin Treminio.

"We're trying to solve flooding and if the roads flood, they can just drive through the tubes," said sixth grader Kori Broadus.

"We decided to make our neighborhoods float in the air so it wouldn't take up as much space," said sixth grader Riley Williams.

"It's actually pretty fun. Now that students can learn, so they can be engineers too and solve the problems," said Kevin.

"They can use it in their school life when they're building stuff and with their homework, like they use math," said Emma.

As part of the project, the fifth grade gifted students had to take a current product or technology and make it even better. The fourth graders had to create their own inventions.

In the coming weeks, Reeves Elementary and Quarles Elementary will also host an Imagineer Expo. Funding came from an Ingalls STEM grant and the ING Unsung Heroes Grant.

"For our gifted students, it's a great leadership opportunity. For the regular classroom students, this is giving them an opportunity to experience STEM first hand," said Holt.

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