Getting students interested in engineering

October 11, 2010 (PRESS RELEASE)

That disturbs engineer Bob Johnson. So it's his mission to encourage elementary and middle-school students to think about science, especially engineering in new ways. Many children -- and their parents -- know little about engineering and science professions or the ways science and engineering affect our lives every day, Bob adds.

He has devised several engaging experiments to demonstrate basic engineering principles. He uses easy to understand models to show how Chicago skyscrapers stand tall and firm. He shows how a simple piece of paper can be folded to support weight and explains how how triangles and squares can be used to build a bridge. And his model of the John Hancock building explains why the Chicago landmark has X's running up its sides.

Bob will join several other engineers from SEAOI (Structural Engineers Association of Illinois this Saturday, October 16 at the Family Science Expo at the Des Plaines Public Library. The free Science Expo from noon to 4 pm will feature interactive displays and fun educational presentations, designed to enhance children's interest in engineering, math, and science.

Through simple hands-on activities, experiments and demonstrations, this expo will show kids of all ages that science is all around us. Long-term, the goal of many of the organizations exhibiting at the science expo is to inspire a new generation of engineers and scientists that will be needed to rebuild infrastructures and create new green technologies.

The target audience is students in grades 2-8, but high school students and parents will come away with and appreciation and understanding of science and engineering. They will

  • learn to build their own PC from spare "parts;
  • construct skyscrapers and bridges from Legos then put them to an earthquake test;
  • explore x-rays, sonar and other non-invasive inspection methods;
  • experience light, color and optics and they way they affect how we "see";
  • discover the ways chemical engineers problem solve to create cool stuff that keeps us safe;
  • learn how to participate in Destination ImagiNation, an exhilarating after-school activity in which students work in teams to solve mind-bending Challenges and present their solutions at Tournaments;

Family Science Expo Participants:

  • MATHCOUNTS project of the North Suburban Chapter Illinois Society of Professional Engineers
  • The Optical Society of Chicago
  • American Society of NonDestructive Testing (ASNT)
  • Illinois Section American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
  • Structural Engineers Association of Illinois ( SEAOI)
  • American Institute of Chemical Engineers ( AIChE)
  • Destination ImagiNation
  • Construction Challnge
  • IEEE / WIE, The Women in Engineering Affiliate (WIE) of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)

Des Plaines Public Library
1501 Ellinwood Street, Des Plaines
Grades 3 to 8
Free admission
(847) 827-5551


Robert B. Johnson is a Senior Engineer for Bowman, Barrett & Associates Consulting Engineers in Chicago. He is a licensed Structural Engineer in Illinois and a Registered Professional Engineer in Indiana and New Jersey. For almost 25 years Mr. Johnson has chaired the Public Relations Committee of SEAOI and in doing so has brought visibility to structural engineers. He has spoken to thousands of school children on structural engineering in a host of science outreach programs. He has been a prolific writer on engineering topics with articles and letters published in a host of publications and websites.

Johnson is a member of Structural Engineers Association of Illinois (SEAOI) , ASCE (fellow), ACI (fellow), American Engineering Association, American Engineering Alliance, past member of the Chicago Committee on High-Rise Buildings (CCHRB). He is past director of SEAOI, Former Chair of the Advocacy Committee of NCSEA, former member of public involvement committee of ASCE, past secretary for CCHRB, serves as a volunteer to Future City Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology EWEEK program and Past Chair to the Chicagoland Engineers Week program .

He has been recipient of numerous awards and recognition for his outreach efforts to engineering associations and the public including the 1st Herald Award from the American Engineering Alliance.

Copyright © 2023 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.