Engineering some fun for kids

Jul 7, 2006

Five days, four teams, 20 sites and countless hand grips - the Engineers Without Borders Group at Kettering sure knows how to kick-start the academic year.

The A-Section chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWBKU) at Kettering University hit the ground running before their first school term of the 2006-07 academic year even started.

The group had been working long distance all through their co-op work term to be able to begin construction of climbing towers with slides on 20 elementary school playgrounds in the city of Flint July 3 through 8.

Taking the concept of "without borders" literally, the fledgling chapter decided, during the A-Section school term of January to March, to focus its first project close to home. "They decided for their first project to look at the community Kettering sits in, Flint, Michigan, and they determined there was a need for self esteem building among Flint school children," said Dr. Laura Sullivan, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering and faculty adviser to the group.

Wanting a project that involved engineering, would be permanent, that would appeal to Kettering students and could be accomplished in a short amount of time, the group decided to design and build climbing towers with slides on the playground of every elementary school in the Flint Public School system.

Using Michigan Health and Safety guidelines, the group came up with a design for the climbing tower with a slide and received approval from the Flint Board of Education to construct the towers at every elementary school that will be open in the fall.

It wasn't easy getting a project involving 20 sites, with no budget, off the ground in less than six months, especially considering that during three of those months the group was scattered at their various co-op work assignments.

They managed to pull everything together including funding, materials, food for volunteers and t-shirts, by running up cell phone bills, driving long distances to meet in groups of two or three and emailing A LOT. Sullivan kept the communications flowing and tirelessly fundraised to make the students' dream a reality.

Their angels came in the form of many different donors including Precision Industries of Flint, which made a donation of $4,000, and large discounts from James Lumber for the composite decking material used for the outside of the structures. James Lumber also facilitated a discount with the manufacturer of the slides and hand grips.

Sullivan estimates that each structure would have cost approximately $1,150, if all the materials, the slide, the grips, and the ground covering were factored in. "But thanks to James Lumber, I think that our final per-structure cost will be under $600," she said.

Kettering also provided support through the Office of International and Governmental Activities, as part of the Lives Improve Through Engineering (LITE) program and through the donations of Kettering employees including:

Dr. Patrick Atkinson, assoc. professor of Mechanical Engineering
Susan Bolt, vice president of Administration and Finance
Dr. Janet Brelin-Fornari, assoc. professor of Mechanical Engineering
Dr. Tim Cameron, professor of Mechanical Engineering
Beth Covers, controller
Dr. Gianfranco DiGiuseppe, assist. professor of Mechanical Engineering
Dr. Yaomin Dong, assist. professor of Mechanical Engineering
Jennifer Dunseath, director of Institutional Effectiveness
Betsy Homsher, assoc. dean of Students & director of Women Student Affairs
Tyana Lange, business manager, Department of Business
Dr. Terri Lynch-Caris, assist. professor of Industrial Engineering
Pat Mroczek, chief Public Relations officer
Robert Nichols, vice president for Enrollment Management
Dr. Karen Palmer, assoc. professor of Electrical Engineering
Lisa Phillips, Corporate Relations manager
Dr. Ben Redekop, assoc. professor of Liberal Studies
Debbie Stewart, director of Orientation and Special Programs
Dr. Laura Sullivan, assoc. professor of Mechanical Engineering
Dr. Kathryn Svinarich, assoc. professor of Physics
Diane Vyvyan, coordinator of Student Media
Sue Weiss, senior Planned Gifts officer
Karen Westrick, Corporate Relations manager
Donna Wicks, systems administrator - Blackboard
Dr. Mark Wicks, department head, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Dr. Karen Wilkinson, department head, Liberal Studies
Dr. Maciej Zgorzelski, professor of Mechanical Engineering

Written by Dawn Hibbard
(810) 762-9865