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Engineering Students Teach Local Middle Schoolers to Build Earthquake Resistant Gingerbread Houses

Engineering Students Teach Local Middle Schoolers to Build Earthquake Resistant Gingerbread Houses

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Villanova University College of Engineering is strongly committed to introducing local students to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) experiences at a young age. Now in its 8th year, Villanova Community Action by New Engineers (NovaCANE) is a program that brings engineering to seven different middle schools in the Philadelphia region. Approximately 30 students and faculty are involved in NovaCANE each year, making monthly trips to area schools to teach lessons and give demonstrations to after-school engineering clubs. Engineering projects vary by grade level:

  • Sixth graders focus on structural engineering
  • Seventh grade projects are centered on environmental, water resources, chemical and sustainable engineering
  • Eighth graders learn about electrical and mechanical engineering

Earlier this month, NovaCANE visited St. Martin of Tours middle school in Philadelphia to provide some engineering holiday spirit as part of their focus on structural engineering. After a brief informative lecture on earthquakes, the group of 25 sixth grade students were given materials to make gingerbread houses. The catch? The houses not only had to stand on their own, but also withstand an earthquake simulation. Teams of students used graham crackers, frosting and candy to construct a two-story gingerbread house that was then tested on a “shake table” to simulate a real earthquake. During construction, the students had to use what they learned in the lecture portion to consider how earthquakes affect structures. Of course, whether the house stood firm or eventually collapsed, the fun came in eating the pieces afterward.

The College of Engineering is a national leader in STEM outreach programs and is committed to inspiring the next generation of engineers. The College’s STEM outreach takes on many forms, from facilitation of national programs on Villanova’s campus to local programs that originate from the creativity of Villanova students and faculty. To learn more, visit the College’s website