Peoria Museum Offers Look at Engineering

Caterpillar was the main sponsor of Engineering Day, along with other groups such as American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Society of Automotive Engineers International and Society of Women Engi

📅   Tue March 31, 2015 - Midwest Edition
VICTORIA BERKOW - (Peoria) Journal Star


Caterpillar was the main sponsor of Engineering Day, along with other groups such as American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Society of Automotive Engineers International and Society of Women Engineers, plus more than 20 others.
Caterpillar was the main sponsor of Engineering Day, along with other groups such as American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Society of Automotive Engineers International and Society of Women Engineers, plus more than 20 others.

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) - Staring at a dusty terrain ahead, sloping with muddy hills and peppered with trees, Brendan Patterson gripped the wheel of his dozer and prepared to charge forward.

The 11-year-old from East Peoria may not be old enough to legally drive, but fortunately he was steering and moving the dozer’s ripper in a Caterpillar simulator. It was one of the many kid-friendly attractions at Engineering Day 2015, a free event open to future engineers and scientists Sunday at the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

”It was really fun,’ said Patterson, who has some simulation experience through video games. ”I thought the third-person mode was cool. You can see things easier.’

As kids of all ages crowded around the dozer and truck simulators for two-minute turns, Caterpillar engineering supervisor Abdul Maoued said the machines are used for real-life operator training.

”We’re hoping to give the kids an opportunity to feel what the machines are actually like and see what operators actually do,’ he said.

Caterpillar was the main sponsor of Engineering Day, along with other groups such as American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Society of Automotive Engineers International and Society of Women Engineers, plus more than 20 others.

The museum buzzed with activity stations, each with hands-on construction tasks replicating aspects of engineering. One table displayed hot rods made from paper, straws and plastic bottle caps. Another showed off geometric structures using pencils and rubber bands.

The Illinois Valley Branch of ASCE hosted a bridge-building contest for 40 teams of central Illinois middle schoolers. Index card bridges were tested for support by attaching a bucket below and slowly filling it with sand. ASCE members discussed with students strategies to improve bridges that collapsed too quickly.

River City Labs set up an augmented sandbox that physically created topography models, a project started at University of California, Davis, and completed by the firm. A 3D camera and digital projector was suspended over the box, creating the appearance of blue water for areas with little sand, and brown mountains when the sand was piled up. Kids rearranged the land and water masses by moving sand in any way they pleased.

For all the high-tech simulations and activities, there was also a more traditional game: catch. Well, sort of. Sponsored by Robot Casserole, an area engineering team for high school students, a 3-foot tall robot spat a large rubber ball at kids and caught it when it was thrown back.

”Kids don’t learn a lot of these skills (engineers have) until college. This is a chance to see it now. It’s fantastic,’ said Tim Wong, a mentor for Robot Casserole.

”We want to encourage students to participate in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education; STEM careers are the future at Cat,’ said Michelle Unser, STEM Outreach Specialist for Engineering. ”Each career at Cat will need technology knowledge. Hopefully, students can start learning it at a young age.’