By KAITLYN NAPLES
It happened to be just the right fit when General Electric of Plainville approached the Imagine Nation Museum of Bristol nine years ago to partner during National Engineers Week.
It made especially even more sense since the Imagine Nation Museum focuses on expanding the imagination of children, and General Electric touts “Imagination at work.”
“It was a way to celebrate National Engineers Week, and get out into the community to share math and science and try to find the future engineers,” said Mike Wood, engineering manager for electrical equipment at General Electric.
General Electric employees spent the day at the Imagine Nation Museum last Friday, working with children on a variety of activities surrounding all industries of engineering.
For example, children participated in an egg-drop station where they wrapped an egg in materials they feel would protect it when it fell from the third floor to the second floor of the museum. This activity taught children about mechanical engineering, Wood said. Another activity had children build a bridge out of varying materials, like newspaper. These bridges would be tested with weights to see which materials were strongest. Wood said this activity taught children about civil engineering. Other activities, he said focused on other engineering types, like aerospace and chemical.
“It is amazing to see what the kids come up with, especially since we don’t give them a lot of direction,” Wood said, adding a component of the activities is not only to learn about engineering, but for the children to use their imaginations.
Doreen Stickney, director of the Imagine Nation Museum, said the partnership with General Electric has allowed for children to learn first-hand about engineering, and introduce them to all of the engineering disciplines.
“All of the activities are hands-on and they get to work with professional engineers from General Electric; it’s wonderful,” Stickney said, adding that the stations set up for the day are in addition to the many other activities that are available at the museum regularly.
Wood said many of the children will ask questions about General Electric and the professionals will explain what the company does, and what it is known for. He also said many of the engineers will share how they always took things apart when they were younger, like a computer or a telephone or coffee pot, just to try to see what was inside, how it worked, and subsequently to put them back together. There was even an activity on Friday where Imagine Nation Museum employees were saving up old electronics and appliances that didn’t work anymore so the children could take them apart and see what was inside.
Stickney said the museum focuses on the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) concept with upcoming activities because “it is important to introduce them to those areas at a young age and try and spark that interest and creativity and allow them to tinker with different materials and grow their imagination.”
Wood said that General Electric goes out into the community frequently, and is especially devoted to teaching the community about engineering. He said GE sponsors a robotics team at a Connecticut high school that is devoted to teaching engineering and math; GE also holds job shadowing days for students to visit and spend the day with an engineer. GE also collaborates with the University of Connecticut in a variety of ways, and announced in 2012 a $7.5 million investment to UConn for an initiative that will bring an endowed professorship in the school of engineering, a grant for graduate and undergraduate sponsorships and fellowships, and GE-directed research in materials, manufacturing and advanced circuit breaker technologies.