Archive for the ‘K’NEX’ Tag

STEM Education and Building the New Bridge

Rebar sample is much heavier than it looks/NNYB Outreach

Eastchester parent Beryn Corham’s son came home excited from school. “He couldn’t wait to tell me what happened that day at assembly,” she says. And teachers are thrilled too. According to Westchester teachers, nothing makes a kid’s eyes open wider than holding a piece of rebar (reinforcing steel) like that used in the new Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge or a strand from one of the stay cables that support the main span roadway.

Educational Outreach

Magic definitely happens when the New NY Bridge Project’s educational outreach team brings the state’s largest infrastructure into classrooms. During the past five years, the team has visited more than 60,000 students in the tri-state region and made hundreds of presentations to Westchester students, providing opportunities to see and feel construction materials and safety equipment and get them thinking about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

Each year the educational outreach program focused on specific aspects of the project.

• Year One (2013-14): Discovery/Geo-tech of the Hudson River
• Year Two (2014-15): Building a Strong Foundation
• Year Three (2015-16): Teamwork and Innovation
• Year Four (2016-17): Bridge Rising

“Looking back, whether it was explaining bridges to a kindergartener or answering complex questions from a high schooler, the real joy was seeing students make the connection between information and understanding,” Public Outreach Coordinator Andrew P. O’Rourke, Jr., says.

With Groups and Clubs

The New NY Bridge Project’s educational outreach team can tailor presentations to specific groups and clubs as they did at the WizGirls conference hosted by American Association of University Woman Westchester (AAUW) that encourages girls to explore engineering and computer science.

NNYB Project Director Jamey Barbas and WizGirls/NYSTA

“WizGirls is an offshoot of AAUW Westchester’s Explore Your Opportunities conference for seventh-graders at the College of Mount St. Vincent in Riverdale that explores all four STEM fields,” program leader Diona Koerner says.

Female scientists lead hands-on workshops and serve as role models for the students. “We chose this [age] group to attract the girls early when they’re still interested, and they’re excited about it,” Koerner continues. “Last year we had a huge response.”

New NY Bridge Project Director Jamey Barbas explained tension and compression to a group of sixth- and seventh-grade girls during a fall 2016 WizGirls conference, after which they applied their new knowledge by assembling mini LEGO® bridges. “Events like [these] are unique opportunities to bring awareness to young women of careers in engineering,” she says.

Combining Fun and Education

During the project’s early years, White Plains Public Library (WPPL) had a Build With K’NEX! program, in which kids built models of the I Lift NY super crane and the new bridge with the colorful plastic pieces.

“It’s an opportunity for kids, while they’re doing something fun, to gain math and engineering skills, to learn how things fit together – shapes, sizes,” says former WPPL children’s librarian Terry Rabideau. “It’s an opportunity to have fun and be creative.”

When the bridge’s main span towers were being built, the project’s Tarrytown and Nyack Outreach Centers added a mini tower crane challenge: participants had to place the tiny construction crew member on a target below using the crane’s controls.

Dan Marcy, who leads presentations with O’Rourke, notes, “Educators are often looking for real-world applications for what they teach in the classroom. Over the years, it has been remarkable to witness how enthusiastic students have been about this project and how they’ve embraced complicated engineering principles, construction components and problem solving.”

Excitement About Local STEM Events

“Learning doesn’t take place in a bubble, and the various components of STEM overlap,” Chairperson and President of STEM Alliance of Larchmont-Mamaroneck, Meg Käufer, explains.

Julpiter Joe’s Astronomy activity allows kids to control a robtic arm at Larchmont’s Hommocks Middle School STEM event. Photo Credit: Alison Mäertins, 2018

The Alliance’s annual festival at Hommocks Middle School in March drew more than 1,200 kids, teens and adults into three hours of fun and learning. Throughout the free Friday night event, attendees could choose activity stations and pre-registration workshops with STEM challenges including a physics lesson in bridge building from O’Rourke, plus marshmallow launchers and a chess master playing multiple games at once.

The annual Lower Hudson Valley Engineering Expo, which held its 15th Expo on April 15, brings more than 100 engineering firms, engineering colleges and public agencies together to introduce students to engineering and technology careers, according to McLaren Engineering Group President and CEO Malcolm G. McLaren, PE.

This West Nyack-based firm is a major benefactor and organizer of the event that incorporates numerous engineering fields whereas it once focused primarily on civil engineering, according to McLaren.

Attendance has grown, attracting students, colleges and corporations from a large geographic area. One typical and interesting observation was of a student who, initially hesitant to walk through the door, became so absorbed he was reluctant to leave when his mother called to him.

In the Classroom

More than 200 students attended Heathcote School’s March HExpo workshops. “It was hands-on, daylong and feedback was positive,” fifth-grade teacher Christine Boyer says. “The kids loved it and saw it as having fun, digging deeper and learning.” When they were using screwdrivers to take appliances apart, “the wheels were turning, and the learning was happening.”

Teamwork building a LEGO® bridge/C Boyer

“One of the greatest joys was seeing students’ eyes light up after answering their questions because it unlocked the door to knowledge, ignited their curiosity and gave them a personal connection to the project as they watched history rising in their own backyards,” says O’Rourke who participated in the event.

In the STEM program that Claremont Elementary School teacher Micki Lockwood designed for her third- and fourth-grade students at Ossining Union Free School District, the younger grade studies electricity, and the older one studies bridges.

Samantha, a Claremont student, loves stem “because I get to experience science, technology, and engineering and math projects at a very young age,” while her classmate Sienna enjoys the variety of activities. “We have a chance to ask questions, imagine and plan and then we create things and talk about how we can improve them.”

Lockwood’s students used K’NEX and LEGO® bricks to study and build bridges with a special emphasis on the new bridge. “We spent a lot of time focusing on cable-stayed bridges since this amazing project is happening one town away from us,” Lockwood says.

Combining Imagination and Concepts

Technology teacher Anthony Rich introduced 3D design to his students at Greenvale and Anne Hutchinson Schools in the Eastchester Union Free School District by using a web-based program called TinkerCAD about three years ago.

“The fourth- and fifth-graders get a half-year of Coding with a program called Scratch and a half-year of 3D design and printing,” Rich explains. While the older children create their own designs, the younger students are learning program basics and concepts.

Ducky, a fourth-grade student at Anne Hutchinson School in Eastchester, likes 3D printing “because I can create anything I can imagine and I can invent and print new things. It lets you have the ability to imagine, plan, then build anything you want.”
Käufer sums it up nicely. “STEM is important because it gets kids thinking in new ways and changes their thought processes. There’s no minor league for STEM.”

Night before new bridge’s westbound span opened/NYSTA

A Work of Art!

ArtsWestchester celebrated the new bridge as a work of art at its gala 2017 fundraiser last November as CEO Janet Langsam feels STEAM education (adding the arts to STEM) is crucial to educating the next generation of creative thinkers. “Art increases motivation, enhances communication and expression and, like science, it helps inspire innovation and critical thinking,” she says.

For information about outreach presentations, contact Andy O’Rourke at or 845-918-2516 or visit

My article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Westchester Family.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2018

K’NEX Creativity: Super Wheels at The Trove

Following the successful K’NEX Special – The New NY Bridge and I Lift NY Super Crane Project at White Plains Public Library, a 6th Grade Special: Connect with K’NEX program last week invited students to The Trove to pool their creativity by designing and building their own K’NEX models.

Go, teams! Proudly displaying their new certificates, New NY Bridge and I Lift NY models/New NY Bridge Outreach

Go, teams! Proudly displaying their new certificates, New NY Bridge and I Lift NY models/New NY Bridge Outreach

“It’s a fun way to learn teamwork and use their imagination to with the K’NEX,” children’s librarian Terry Rabideau said. “They learn how the various shapes and sizes fit together, they’re looking at colors. It’s a chance to be creative.”

Teamwork plus creativity yields a cool model K'NEX jeep/TR

Teamwork plus creativity yields a cool model K’NEX jeep/TR

The result: a colorful vehicle that would’ve stood up to the recent snowstorm.

* * * * *

Children in grades 3 through 6 living in White Plains are invited to “Make A Superhero Cape!” program on Friday, Jan. 30, at 3:30 p.m. Details are here.

Super crane draws fans in all weather/© Janie Rosman 2014

Super crane draws fans in all weather/© Janie Rosman 2014

Check out K’NEX replicas of the New NY Bridge and the I Lift NY super crane at The Trove — and the super crane via the viewing area in Tarrytown.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

Cottage Lane Students’ New NY K’NEX Bridge

Technology teacher Jacob Tanenbaum was as excited as his young students when project officials paid a second visit to Cottage Lane Elementary School.

“Fifth-grade science has a unit of study on bridge design that teaches engineering science,” Tanenbaum said. “Doing engineering with them, and building the K’NEX bridge, has been a wonderful experience.”

Problem-solving for some future engineers/NNYB Outreach

Problem-solving for some future engineers/NNYB Outreach

And since he’d never seen K’NEX pieces, Tanenbaum learned along with them. The bridge model — which includes cars, bicycles and a kayak or two below the spans — is prominently displayed and has gotten much attention.

“My students were thrilled to be part of the project in their own way. It’s hands-on learning for them to figure out how to engineer a copy of the bridge,” Tanenbaum said.

K’NEX Bridge is at Nyack Outreach Center/NNYB Outreach

K’NEX Bridge is at Nyack Outreach Center/NNYB Outreach

“The New NY Bridge is a once in a lifetime project and we want it to inspire local students at all levels from graduate school and college down to elementary classrooms. The goal of our educational outreach effort at all levels is to use this historic infrastructure project to inspire the next generation of bridge builders here in New York.” — Brian Conybeare, Special Project Advisor to Governor Andrew Cuomo

Year two of project officials’ five-year Educational Outreach Program focuses on “A Solid Foundation.” Unveiled in October 2013, the program, interest quickly spread. Well, that might be an understatement.

Massive crane leaving CA for New York/Jacob Tanenbaum

Massive crane leaving CA for New York/Jacob Tanenbaum

“They brought in part of the rebar, which is the size of your arm. The kids were excited to see and touch it,” Tanenbaum said of the presentation, which focused on the concrete batch plants and how the foundations are being constructed.

Tanenbaum was bicycling on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge’s shared use path with the I Lift NY set out for New York last December. The kids tracked its six-week progress with a geography lesson or two added for good measure.

Technology teacher Jacob Tanenbaum and the super crane

Technology teacher Jacob Tanenbaum and the super crane

New York State is considering adopting the Next Generation Science Standards. “The engineering standards especially are wonderful, and the kids have a real-life model in their neighborhood,” he said. And how!

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014

Fascinated by the I Lift NY Super Crane

“Combine the two, make the engineer sketch like an artist and make the artist analyze like an engineer, and you are half-way there.” — German designer and typographer Erik Spiekermann.

Coming to a river near us/NNYB Outreach

Coming to a river near us/NNYB Outreach

We followed the Left Coast Lifter‘s journey from its Oakland, CA, departure in December to its arrival in New York Harbor. Photographers Phil Little and  Bjoern Kils saw the I Lift NY — escorted by tugboats Lauren Foss and Iver Foss — greet the Statue of Liberty and the Freedom Tower about six weeks later. Will Van Dorp, who blogs at tugster: a waterblog shared his views as the crane was en route.

Remember when Contra Costa Times reporter Lisa Vorderbrueggen mused in May if the name Left Coast Lifter might be too much for us? And something about the bridge replacement project being “less prestigious” or similar nonsense.

Well, Lisa, if you followed along, you’d know that before 5 p.m. the day I blogged about it, project officials said the crane had been dubbed I Lift NY.

Cub Scouts Pack 6 Crestwood with their K’NEX model of the I Lift NY super crane/New NY Bridge Outreach

Cub Scouts Pack 6 Crestwood with their K’NEX model of the I Lift NY super crane/New NY Bridge Outreach

And guess what? Kids here are building models of the New NY Bridge and the I Lift NY from K’NEX pieces while learning about math and engineering, being creative, assisting as part of a team, and problem-solving.

Were similar educational projects created after the crane arrived in California, where it remained for more than four years?

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014

Paralleling the Real Deal: Build With K’NEX!

During September, 24 kids and four high school volunteers met weekly at The Trove at White Plains Public Library. Their mission: to build replicas of the New NY Bridge and the I Lift NY super crane using K’NEX pieces.

Teamwork, learning, creativity/New NY Bridge Outreach

Teamwork, learning, creativity/New NY Bridge Outreach

Children’s librarian Terry Rabideau found it interesting to see how the kids each chose different jobs within their teams. “Some would find the K’NEX pieces, and some would actually build. Some were problem-solvers and figured out how the pieces fit together,’ she said.

While The Trove’s LEGO® Build Club meets each month, the library never hosted a short-term project like Build With K’NEX! for which kids work as a team. “What was fun was watching them come back every week, knowing they had to continue where they left off,” she said. Just like construction crew at the project site.

Go, teams! Proudly displaying their new certificates, New NY Bridge and I Lift NY models/New NY Bridge Outreach

Go, teams! Proudly displaying their new certificates, New NY Bridge and I Lift NY models/New NY Bridge Outreach

“It gave them a great sense of pride and accomplishment,” Rabideau said. The month ended with participants receiving special certificates and enjoying a cookies-and-juice party with their parents. “Many of the adults hadn’t seen the structures and were amazed at what the kids built,” Rabideau said.

Both models are on display at The Trove, 100 Martine Ave., White Plains. Call 914-422-1476.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014

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