Clemson Career Workshop Summer 2017 – Introduction to Engineering

September 28, 2017

This summer, 30 underrepresented high school students from across the state of South Carolina and even some parts of North Carolina participated in the Clemson Career Workshop.  The summer residential workshop combined learning opportunities with sessions on college preparation and life skills that increase the likelihood of success for a diverse population of eventual underclassmen.  Dr. Oliver Myers, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, served as the instructor for an introduction to engineering.  In Dr. Myers class, students learned how the fundamental mathematics of algebra, trigonometry, and geometry are combined with physics and are used in undergraduate engineering classes.  Specifically, the students learned to apply those fundamentals to design truss structures for bridges.  This project was inspired by a classic bridge type called a Pratt truss bridge.  A Pratt truss by its diagonal members, which (except for the very end ones) all slant down and in toward the center of the span. All the diagonal members are subject to tension forces only, while the shorter vertical members handle the compressive forces. Since the tension removes the buckling risk, this allows for thinner diagonal members resulting in a more economic design. A truss structure supports only tension and compression forces in its members. The Pratt Truss Bridge lesson explores how engineering has impacted the development of bridges over time, including innovative designs and the challenge of creating bridges that become landmarks for a city. Students worked in pairs as “engineers” to design and build their own bridge out of glue and popsicle sticks to demonstrate the mathematical principles in a physical experiment.  At the end of the week, the bridges were strength tested by placing weights on top of the bridge.  Many of the bridges survived the weigh loads, some did not and a couple were not well assembled.  Nevertheless, students were able to learn lessons of applied mathematics, physics, assembly processes, career development, graduate degrees and the college experience.OMyers#1