National Engineers Week Kickoff – Visioneering 2017

On February 18th, the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education within the SMU Lyle School of Engineering hosted Visioneering 2017 to kick off National Engineers Week!

Visioneering is a half day event in which teams of middle school students from all over Texas come together and do a 90 minute engineering project. This sounds simple, but there is so much more cool stuff that happens throughout the day!

Over 60 teams came to SMU for Visioneering from all over Texas!

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Students first arrived and checked in. After checking in, the students filled the auditorium for the opening ceremony where they learned a little bit about engineering and learned about their design challenge for the day! For the design challenge, students were tasked to design and create a prototype for a home or building for an elderly or disabled person.

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After the opening ceremony, teams were taken to different classrooms to complete the design challenge! In each classroom, students met with their mentors. These mentors were professional engineers! Along with their mentors, the students found supplies for the challenge. They used the first few minutes of their challenge time to brainstorm and come up with ideas to plan their final design.

The students were very creative in their designs, and their ideas were fantastic!

After the 90 minute challenge period, students had their final creations ready, and they presented their masterpieces to 2 judges.

After all the teams were judged, students went back to the auditorium for an engineering expo, awards, and the closing ceremony!

Five teams were awarded various awards, but everyone won in that they left with the satisfaction of solving a complex challenge!

Students learned how to think in new ways, work as part of a team, and to speak up and share their ideas. This made Visioneering 2017 a success!

Visioneering 2017 was a lot of fun! Students, mentors, teachers, and volunteers had a ton of fun! We can’t wait until Visioneering 2018!

SMU Lyle Engineering Summer Programs – Dallas Campus

Registration for summer programs for high school students, middle school students, and teachers is now open!

For high school students, we have:

  • Residential Engineering Program for 11th and 12th Grade Students
  • Advanced Robotics (FIRST Tech Challenge) Program for High School Students
  • Quad-Copter Program for High School Students
  • Space Launch Program for High School Students

For middle school students, we have:

  • Mindstorms Robotics Program for Middle School Students
  • Introduction to Programming for Middle School Students
  • Crime Scene Investigation for 6th and 7th Grade Students
  • Rocketry Program for Middle School Students
  • Quad-Copter Program for Middle School Students
  • Competitive Robotics FIRST Lego League Program for Middle School Student

For teachers, we have:

  • Classroom Robotics for Teachers Grades 4th-8th
  • UIL Robotics Training FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) and FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC)
  • STEM for Middle and High School Teachers

All of these programs are awesome! If you want to register or you want more information, click here!

Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair – STEM Party 2017

This past weekend was the Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair 2017 at Dallas Fair Park and the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education got involved!

While judging was going on, the Caruth Institute hosted a STEM party for parents and students!

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The STEM party started off with a guest speaker talking to parents about the college search and college admissions processes. Parents loved all the great information!

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After that, the students participated in a CSI Fingerprint Activity. The students stamped their fingerprints onto a balloon and were given a card to compare their fingerprints to. Through this, they were able to see what kind of fingerprint they had! Everyone had a ton of fun with this activity!

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After the CSI Fingerprint Activity, the students participated in the Marshmallow Challenge. The students were tasked with building the tallest structure out of marshmallows and spaghetti noodles. Students were in teams and got to race to build the tallest structure, and it was very intense and very cool! The students were very creative and the structures they came up with were awesome!

There was even a visit from the TECH Truck from the Perot Museum of Nature and Science! Students got to learn to tinker, engineer, create, and hack!

While we were there, we got to see some very cool projects! One of those projects was done by a familiar face – one of our students from summer camp from this past summer was there presenting her project!

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The Caruth Institute loved getting involved in the Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair this year and can’t wait to run the show next year! For a list of winners of the fair and more information about the fair itself, click here!

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Prepare for Black History Month

February is Black History Month. African American scientists and engineers have had a huge impact on the STEM world for a long time! Here are a few of the African American scientists, engineers, and mathematicians who have made the STEM world a cooler place!


George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver was a scientist and inventor. He invented over 100 products from the peanut, sweet potatoes, and soybeans! Every invention he created was to help make the world a better place, and that is exactly what he did!

George Washington Carver Photo


Euphemia Lofton Haynes

Euphemia Lofton Haynes was a mathematician. She was the first African American woman to receive a PhD in mathematics. Afterwards, she turned towards the world of education to change the face of education. She did so by fighting against segregation in schools and advocating for poor students and better schools. She took the STEM and education world by storm!


George Edward Alcorn Jr. 

George Edward Alcorn Jr. is a physicist and inventor. He earned a PhD in atomic and molecular physics. He has invented and patented many creations, including the Imaging X-ray Spectrometer. For this invention, he received the NASA Inventor of the Year Award.


Campbell C. Johnson

Campbell C. Johnson was a Quality Engineer. He started college as a Civil Engineering major at Howard University and realized his passion for Chemical Engineering. This caused him to transfer to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, but because he was a transfer student and the only African American in his class, he was at a disadvantage which caused him to push himself to the best of his ability. He graduated with his degree in Chemical Engineering in 1942.

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Daniel Hale Williams 

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams was performed the first successful open heart surgery at Provident Hospital in Chicago. This hospital was also founded by Dr. Williams, and was one of the only hospitals to welcome African American patients. Dr. Williams changed the medical world for years to come!


That’s only a few of the many African American scientists and engineers to change the world of STEM forever!

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A Very Merry STEM Christmas

Kids get time off from school during the holidays, and this is great! It gives them time for independent exploration, but this also means that they have to stay busy. The best way to keep them busy and make sure they’re learning is to do STEM Christmas activities! These activities have all the Christmas cheer and fun, and they’re also a great way to learn!

Below are our favorite STEM Christmas activities.


Christmas Tree Icy Engineering

All the supplies you need for this activity are simple household items! All you need to do is freeze water in different sized containers, and build a Christmas tree out of the ice. Through this, students learn about different shapes, weights, and other characteristics to keep in mind while building their trees. Students will learn simple engineering concepts through festive fun!

Christmas Tree STEM Ice tree building engineering activity


Crystal Candy Canes

For this activity, you will need borax, mason jars, water, and other household supplies. You and the students will create a candy cane out of pipe cleaners. Then, you will mount the candy cane in a mason jar into a mixture. The next day, the candy cane will be covered in crystals – which is AWESOME! Students will learn all about the different mixtures, states of matter, and more!

Crystal candy cane after 24 hours


Erupting Ornaments

The Erupting Ornaments experiment is the most fun Christmas themed experiment. Students will fill clear ornaments with baking soda and vinegar to learn about chemical reactions. The reaction will cause the ornament to erupt and the fizzy mixture to spill. This is a really fun way to learn about reactions, and kids will get to perform this awesome hands-on activity!

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We hope everyone has the best holiday season possible! Stay safe, make time for family and friends, have fun, and learn something new!

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A STEM Thanksgiving

The season of Thanksgiving is upon us, and it’s always cool to connect STEM and Thanksgiving inside and outside the classroom!

The cool thing about Thanksgiving STEM activities is that they connect STEM and history, so students learn about both, which is awesome!

Here are some of our favorite Thanksgiving STEM activities!


Build the Mayflower

Build the Mayflower with your students to teach them about buoyancy! Students will use household objects to build the Mayflower and test whether or not their ideas work. Students can test boats with and without sails, with or without paint, with varying weights, and more!

Mayflower Craft and Science Experiment for Thanksgiving


Cranberry Chemistry

Teach your students all about chemical reactions through the use of cranberry juice, baking soda, and lemon juice! Students will learn how different solutions react; they will also learn all about the different chemicals that cause these reactions.

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Regrowing Food

Not only is Thanksgiving a cool time to learn about STEM, it’s also a time to be thankful and not wasteful.

Do this cool activity to regrow Thanksgiving food to learn about growing plants!

This is always a fun activity, and it’s even more fun when it’s Thanksgiving!

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Along with STEM activities, we hope your Thanksgiving is filled with food, fun, and family. Remember to learn something new this holiday! We hope everyone has a fantastic Thanksgiving!

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Halloween Science

Halloween is right around the corner, and with all the cool/fun things going on, kids may forget about the cool/fun things they learn about in school. The best way to reiterate what’s going on in school is to combine STEM and Halloween! Do these awesome STEM Halloween activities to get your kids excited about Halloween AND school!


Glowing Pumpkins

Glow in the dark jack o’ lanterns are super cool!

For this experiment, you will need to purchase Glow Powder to add to your pumpkins, but the students will learn all about illumination.

What you need to do for this experiment is simple – make your pumpkin and add adhesive and glow powder!

Afterwards, your students will be able to connect fluorescence and phosphorescence to the activity they just completed!

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Oozing Pumpkin 

Make oozing pumpkins with your students to teach them about chemical reactions!

These pumpkins are jack o’ lanterns that have foam oozing out of their mouths, eyes, and noses through the use of easy household ingredients.

The reaction of hydrogen peroxide and a yeast mixture causes the foam to form. The yeast acts as a catalyst which speeds up the reaction. Students will learn all about reactions and catalysts through this cool experiment!

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The Screaming Cup

Make a Screaming Cup with your students. Students will learn about sound transmission through vibrations. The materials used for this experiment are simple: a plastic cup, a piece of string, and violin rosin!

The procedure is also simple – cut a hole in the cup, thread the string in and tie it, and wet the string with violin rosin. When you rub your fingers along the string, there will be a screaming noise!

Students will learn that the vibration from your fingers causes the amplification of the sound inside the cup which causes the screaming sound!

Not only will they learn about sound and vibrations, they will also be able to relate it to Halloween!

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We hope you and your family have a great and safe Halloween! Don’t forget to do these cool STEM activities and learn something new along with the festivities!

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Upcoming Events

It’s always busy in the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education, but it’s also always exciting! We have some awesome events happening soon; below you’ll find descriptions of whats coming up!


TEDxSMUWomen 2016 is on October 27, 2016 at the Hughes-Trigg Student Center at SMU in Dallas, TX. TEDxSMUWomen is a full day conference that consists of networking, discussions, workshops, and live, local speakers!


TedxKids@SMU: Illuminate is on November 11, 2016 at The Bomb Factory in Deep Ellum. TEDxKids@SMU is a TED-style conference for middle school students that focuses on passion and ideas. 7-9 speakers will share their ideas, and in between sessions, students will be able to interact with speakers and each other! Students who attend are required to complete a service project.


TEDxSMU After Dark  is also on November 11, but this event is at 6 p.m.! TEDxSMU After Dark is a casual, fun night with food and drinks, speakers, and live music!


TEDxSMU 2016: Illuminate is on November 12 at The Bomb Factory! There are two sessions of TEDxTalks from local and national speakers! In between sessions, attendees get to talk to speakers and each other, and they also get to participate in interactive exhibits and discussions.


February 18, 2017 is Visioneering 2017! Visioneering is a half-day event for middle school students! Students from all over North Texas come to SMU and participate in an engineering design challenge to learn all about problem solving and engineering!


Another event a little later in February is the Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair. This event will take place on February 25, 2017, and it will consist of just what it sounds like – a science and engineering fair! Students will bring their projects to showcase them in hopes of advancing to the next round!


All of these events are so cool and a ton of fun! We have a busy (and super exciting) year ahead, and we hope to see you at our events!

Teacher Professional Development at the Caruth Institute

Over the summer, we had a lot of cool programs for middle school and high school students, but we also had cool programs for teachers!

We had two professional development courses for teachers of grades 4-8 and for high school teachers!

The first course was Classroom Robotics for Teachers Grades 4th-8th. The course was one week long and consisted of an introduction to the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 System. Participants learned about EV3 programming and building and were given activities to use in the classroom!

The next Teacher Professional Development Course we had was the UIL Robotics Training FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) and First Robotics Competition (FRC) course. The training consisted of learning about coaching a team in the FTC or the FRC! Participants learned how to organize teams, understand project management, and effective strategies to build/program a robot. Because this is the first year that Robotics is considered a varsity sport in Texas, these professionals were some of the first that will be participating in the new events!

These trainings were very cool, and the teachers learned a lot and had a great time!

Summer Programs at the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education

Summer is one of the most exciting times of the year – school’s out, the sun’s shining, and kids (and adults) get to do cool things they wouldn’t normally be able to do during school!

This summer at the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education, we hosted a variety of programs for students in middle school and high school.

The first one we hosted for middle school students was the Mindstorms Robotics Program. Students spent two weeks learning all about robotics using the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 System. They worked together and learned how to build and and program a LEGO robot.

Another program for middle school students was Introduction to Programming. Middle school students spent two weeks learning how to program simple devices. They learned simple to complex function programming. They got to make electronic devices and program them! It was a really cool experience for the students participating and for the adults that were there to help!

Another cool program was the Crime Scene Investigation Summer Program for 6th and 7th grade students. The students spent three days exploring science, technology, engineering, and math to learn how each subject is relevant when trying to solve crimes! Students even solved a “real” crime scene and got to see presentations by professionals in the crime scene field!

The Rocketry Program was also a ton of fun! Middle Schoolers spent two weeks designing, building, and flying a model rocket from scratch! They built multiple rockets prior to the final model rocket, and throughout the two weeks the students learned a ton about what goes into rocket flight!

Quad-Copters are fun – especially when you have a summer program devoted to learning all about them! Quad-Copters have recently gained a lot of popularity as they are going to be used in a variety of places. Middle school students spent two weeks learning how quad-copters work and got to use quad-copters to go through an obstacle course!

The last program we did for middle school students was The Competitive Robotics FIRST LEGO League Program. This program lasted one week and prepared the students for the FIRST LEGO League Competition in the fall. Students got to learn a lot and build a robot!

Along with programs for middle school students, we also hosted programs for high school students! They were just as cool and just as exciting as the programs we held for middle schoolers!

We hosted a residential engineering program for 11th and 12th grade students. This program was split into two sessions – one for boys and one for girls. Rising juniors and seniors were able to explore the different fields of engineering offered at the Lyle School of Engineering. The first two (of five) days were spent building skills in the fields of electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer programming. Then, the students were  assigned a design challenge to build a prototype to solve a real-world problem! The program ended with a project presentation. This program was a lot of fun for everyone!

The next camp we held for high school students was the Advanced Robotics (FIRST Tech Challenge) Program. During the week long program, high school students worked together to build a TETRIX robot. Not only did they build awesome robots, they also learned to program their robots autonomously and with remote controls!

We also hosted a Quad-Copter Program for High School Students. Students spent two weeks learning all about quad-copters, and eventually went on to design and build parts to add to their own using CAD software and 3D printers! Students learned the rules quad-copters have to follow, and were able to fly the copters through an obstacle course. The students even got to compete with one another to see who was better able to get through the obstacle course! Students and teachers enjoyed the program, alike!

The last (and one of the coolest) programs we hosted for high school students was the Space Launch Program! This program was two weeks long, and students learned all about space flight through the use of a launch simulator, rockets, and a weather balloon. The students designed, built, and flew a model rocket, sent a weather balloon up in the air and monitored the temperature and pressure of the atmosphere, and learned how to use a 3D printer, CAD software, and program sensors!

There was always a cool program going on at the Caruth Institute this past summer! Although, as with every project, there were some head-scratching moments, students and teachers all had a great time. We’re sad that this summer has concluded, but we can’t wait until next year to have an even better time!