150 volcanoes to erupt on concluding day of annual KU Engineering and Science Expo

photo by: Mike Yoder

Olivia Zarth, a KU sophomore in mechanical engineering, works with students Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, during the KU Engineering Expo. Zarth and students were working on Elementary Inventions, and creating building systems from recycled materials.

Julia Velasco had an appreciative audience with whom to share her interest in astronomy Sunday at the annual University of Kansas Engineering and Science Expo.

A family day crowd filed past the Cordley Elementary School fifth-grader’s science fair project and the 10 others set up on a long table on the first floor of Learned Hall. Velasco’s exhibit sought to answer the question of whether there is another Earth-like planet in the Milky Way galaxy that would support life. To answer that mystery, Velasco provided facts about nine exoplanets discovered in the last two decades that share traits with our home world. The exhibit provided information on each of the candidates’ total mass, likely temperature ranges and number of days they take to orbit their stars.

Velasco has a favorite candidate among the nine reviewed in her display. It’s a planet 490 light years away that orbits its sun in the so-called Goldilocks Zone, an area where temperatures are not too hot nor too cold for life like we know it to thrive.

“Kepler 186f,” she said. “It’s 10 percent smaller than Earth. It’s in the Goldilocks Zone. It orbits its star every 30 days. It’s called Earth’s cousin.”

Velasco said she got her spot in the expo after KU engineering students encouraged Cordley students to apply for the event. She submitted her school science fair project via email and was accepted.

Velasco was one of 2,250 first- through eighth-grade students who will participate in this year’s expo, said Camryn Tornquist, a sophomore in architectural engineering and activities chair of the event for the KU Engineering Student Council, which is sponsoring the expo with the university’s school of engineering. Sunday was family day, when the general public was invited to visit and the younger visitors were encouraged to participate in the different games and activities KU engineering students oversaw, she said. The goal is to spark an early interest in science and engineering in the young students.

Brenna Morris, a KU sophomore in electrical engineering and expo activities chair, said the expo will continue from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at the KU Engineering Complex with student teams from state schools competing in a number of competitions, such as pasta bridge building, paper rocket building and crafting Rube Goldberg machines that relate to their home cities. The competition that drew the most teams was the stable of all elementary school science fairs.

“We’ll have 150 volcanoes,” Morris said. “The volcano is a science fair classic. We had to include it.”

With no contests on the expo’s agenda Sunday, young students and their parents visited the different student-ran engineering and interactive activities of such things as a paper airplane toss, a water rocket and a rubber band car race.

A must-stop on the young students’ itineraries was the ice cream-making demonstration. Baha White, a junior studying electrical engineering, showed young students how to make ice cream in a process that employed milk, vanilla extract, salt ice and plastic baggies.

The students had to work for their treat, vigorously shaking a large plastic bag for up to five minutes before the ice cream reached the right consistency.

Nevaeh Burk, a fifth-grader from Wichita who made the trip to the expo with her math club, said the finished product was smooth, but not something she would be tempted to make at home.

“It’s bland,” she said. “It needs more flavor.”

photo by: Mike Yoder

Friends Sang Son, left and Daniel Fenton, both students at Rhein Benninghoven Elementary School in Shawnee, prepare to race their rubber band-powered vehicles Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the University of Kansas Engineering Expo.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Langchuan Huang, from Lawrence’s Cordley Elementary School, demonstrates fluid dynamics in front of his exhibit Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the University of Kansas Engineering Expo.


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