Professors, Dr. Joel Bandstra, Dr. Ali Shahkarami and Dr. Tim Miller from the Engineering Department at Saint Francis University, visited students in grades 5-7 of the Gifted and Talented classroom at Portage Area School District. Portage Area teacher, Travis Kargo, invited the faculty to perform hands-on lab experiences in a 3-month Engineering series for Environmental, Petroleum and Natural Gas, and General Engineering programs.
Environmental Engineering Visit
Dr. Joel Bandstra, professor of Environmental Engineering, focused the first session on drinking water treatment. Following a presentation on the science behind water treatment, the students conducted hands-on experiments with each of the major "unit operations" in a typical drinking water treatment plant. They used alum to make the dirt to settle out of muddy water. They built a water filter using activated charcoal and used it to remove chemicals dissolved in water. Finally, they used chlorine to disinfect Dr. Bandstra's coffee. The class also discussed why clean drinking water is so important to our health in the U.S., and the need for greater access to clean water throughout the world.
Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering Visit
The second session was conducted by Dr. Ali Shahkarami, accompanied by Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering Junior, Shannon Syzmuisak. They presented how petroleum is formed, and how petroleum engineers study the subsurface. Students participated in hands-on activities learning how to measure concepts such as porosity, the tiny spaces in the rock that hold oil.
General Engineering Visit
Wrapping up the series was Dr. Tim Miller, a new addition to the Saint Francis University General Engineering program. Dr. Miller discussed heat engines and work production with the students. After a presentation about the history and types of heat engines, the students participated in desktop operation of a small Stirling engine and a small direct thermal-electric engine. They saw how the temperature difference over which an engine worked affects the amount of work that can be done, and they used a strobe tachometer to determine the speed of the engine under different operating regimes. They also discovered that operating some heat engines in reverse can cause them to function as refrigerators! Finally, they talked about the steps to design a heat engine system that would convert thermal energy from a deep seafloor hydrothermal vent system into electricity.
“It was a pleasure working with the talented professionals from Saint Francis University,” says Portage Area School District teacher, Travis Kargo. “They were extremely approachable and more than willing to accommodate our students. They were very effective at relaying the information on a level of understanding for this particular age group (grades 5-7). Our students were able to gain new insight to just a few of the many opportunities in the field of Engineering. I really look forward to continuing and even expanding the relationship between Portage Area schools and SFU in the coming years.”
Faculty members look forward to continuing the Engineering series with Portage Area School District in the next school year along with the addition of a Computer Science session.
Environmental Engineering Program
Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering Program
General Engineering Program