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Engineering the future

Photo by Christopher Huang.

Bioengineering graduate student Chi-yin Tse tied a rubber band to a piece of string that sixth-grader Lily Coplen looped around her body. Coplen’s classmate affixed another piece of string around her wrist.

The contraption represented a bicep exoskeleton, which served as a visual representation of how biomechanical engineers create prosthetic limbs.

“The activity was an interactive way to teach kids how an exoskeleton can work,” Tse said. “It allowed them to utilize the engineering design process.”

Tse was one of six Northeastern students and recent alumni working in the Center for STEM Education who led some 60 Boston middle school students through a series of biomechanics activities on Oct. 26 in the Curry Student Center. Students in the Dearborn Middle School and Northeastern’s STEP UP partner schools — including the Curley and Orchard Gardens K-8 schools — participated in the program.

The center serves as a connecting link between the university’s science, technology, engineering and math programs and the community, and plays a key role in improving STEM education in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and beyond.

Students working for the center host several field trips for local students each year. Many of the engineering activities are based on research being conducted in Northeastern laboratories. The exoskeleton demonstration, for example, is based on the work of mechanical and industrial engineering professor Hamid Nayeb-Hashemi.

As part of the field trip, Northeastern students and recent alumni stressed the importance of preparing for college by earning good grades and taking challenging courses in middle and high school.

Naomy Figueroa, a sixth-grader at the Dearborn Middle School, has high hopes for her future, which may include becoming a lawyer or a scientist.  “I want to study biogenetics and look at different living things,” she said. “Plus I want to study chemistry.”

Written by Lauren Horn.