Future ISU Engineers Meet Some Future Cowles Engineers

Iowa State University engineering students talk with students at Cowles Montessori School.

What better to think and talk about at school in snowy weather than gardening? Not to mention $5,000 grants!

Three student ambassadors from the Iowa State University College of Engineering were at Cowles Montessori and brought a big (in more ways than one) check along with them on behalf of ISU’s chapter of the Minds of Tomorrow (MOT) that will be used to heat the Cowles greenhouse with solar energy and expand the growing season there. And as long as they were there they took the opportunity to plant the seeds of future engineers in their “class” that ranged from 3rd to 8th graders.

Ryan Rassasombath (Oskaloosa), Elise Backstrom (Norwalk) and Mikaela Leners (Bettendorf) are all Iowa kids who decided to pursue engineering degrees because they wanted to find out what makes things tick. For Ryan the trigger was merry-go-rounds and roller coasters. Elise got hooked working on alternative energy sources for the cities of the future during a project in 6th grade. Mikaela made a trip to the Hoover Dam when she was a little girl and wondered how something so colossal was ever built.

One wag in the audience invoked the old image of the guy driving the train when the guest speakers asked just what an engineer does. But they made their point that engineers are fundamentally planners and problem-solvers with big ideas.

Ask a group of youngsters how many aspire to be chemical or mechanical or aerospace engineers and you might raise a few hands. But if you rephrase the question in terms of who’d like to design ice cream or toys or rocket ships and just about all of them shoot up.

The MOT program provides grants for the purpose of enhancing K-12 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educational programs. Cowles received their award as a result of a grant application that was spearheaded by teacher Heather Anderson who earlier this year was named a finalist for Iowa Teacher of the Year.

The oversized check presented to Cowles by MOT was a photographer’s dream but certainly wasn’t designed by an engineer. Rassasombath is an Industrial Engineering major and when he explained to the kids what that entails he used toothbrushes as an example. “We figure out the right sizes and shapes of things,” he said. “You guys wouldn’t want to use a toothbrush that was this big, would you?” he asked, spreading his hands about as far apart as the grant check turned out to be wide. That drew a laugh, but when the check too big to fit in anyone’s pocket was formally presented the response was strictly smiles and applause.

To learn more visit Iowa State University’s Minds of Tomorrow.

Photos of Minds of Tomorrow at Cowles


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