Build, Test, and Build Again: Middle School Launches Afternoon of EDI

Popsicle sticks!
And lots and lots of hot glue and tape…

While that may sound like the ingredients for a party, the Middle School turned those tools into a different kind of event--an intense afternoon of Engineering, Design, and Innovation involving faculty and about 200 seventh and eighth graders.

The students took ERB tests in the morning and ate lunch around the Pit. Afterward, they launched into a series of competitive EDI challenges. Organized into teams led by faculty advisors, the students worked feverishly on three engineering tasks:

  • Build a freestanding structure from 25 balloons, using only tape to bind the balloons together. Goal: Structure reaches the greatest height and doesn’t topple.

  • Construct a cardstock rocket to be launched from soda bottle launcher. Goal: Rocket travels the farthest distance.  

  • Create a popsicle stick bridge that spans a 1.5 foot gap. Goal: Bridge holds the maximum weight possible without collapsing.

The event allowed sufficient time for testing of prototypes and a second round to make improvements; failure was integral to the learning process. Students consulted, sketched out ideas, built and rebuilt...and laughed, sometimes ruefully, as balloons burst and bridges sagged.

“Ideas were popping everywhere,” said Middle School Assistant Director Bernie McMahon as the event wrapped up. The activity was organized by the faculty co-directors of the EDI Fellows, Dr. Tenaya Vallery, Upper School Chemistry teacher, and Dr. Robert Call, Upper School Physics teacher. Students in the EDI Fellows program also helped throughout the afternoon.

The activity offered valuable learning in itself, but it was also a fun competition: Advisory groups led by Mrs. Virginia Scofield (7th grade) and Mr. Mike Duquette (8th grade) will get ice cream at their next advisory meeting for scoring top points overall. The event was also designed to spur involvement in the Middle School’s EDI-linked activities, including a brand new afterschool offering using FUSE, as well as robotics.

Middle School Director Matt Sigrist said that the new activities are being held at different times, so that the maximum number of students can get involved. A robotics activity will be held during the week between the fall and winter athletic seasons, so that students involved in sports will still have a window of time that allows them to participate. 

"We've got a group of incoming Middle School students who have been thrilled with EDI experiences in the Lower School," Sigrist said. "As we explore opportunites to extend EDI experiences, this was a great event to help envision what EDI can look like in the Middle School."