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Mechanical engineer energizes ‘Noodle Warriors’ for national science competition

Nashville District Public Affairs
Published Dec. 21, 2012

Nashville, Tenn. (Dec. 21, 2012) -- A Nashville District mechanical engineer recently volunteered to share his knowledge and energize a group of local middle school children for an upcoming national science competition.

Robert “Rob” Baulsir III met with students from Clover Croft Elementary School at a home in Franklin, Tenn., Dec. 17, and explained the fundamentals of energy and mechanical engineering through the use of a series of toys he gathered up from his children’s toy chest.

He mentored the team, dubbed “Noodle Warriors,” and helped them understand the types of energy, its uses and how energy powers engines.

Baulsir said in his quest to keep his teaching simple, he searched his children’s toy chest, found a few energy powered toys as examples, and used them as teaching tools to help them visualize the basic concepts and to make learning easier. 

The aspiring young engineers are entered in the national science competition “Destination Imagination,” which is an international science and technology tournament for kids of all ages. At the start of the season, teams have the option to choose one of seven challenges.  And after weeks creating and developing their solutions, they go to a local tournament and have them judged.  Top-scoring teams advance to state or country tournaments. The programs are challenge based, and they teach the creative process.  The goal is to help kids learn to be creative in every aspect of their lives.

Destination Imagination is an educational non-profit program that helps kids around the world discover their creativity, solve open-ended challenges and present their solutions at tournaments around the country.  The programs are designed to teach the creative process, so kids can solve problems in astonishing ways. The top level of the tournament is the Global Finals—the world’s largest celebration of creativity.

According to Noodle Warriors’ team manager, Nora Balint and Maureen Menko, the challenge program is the most popular offering and requires focus and dedication.

The organization was incorporated in 1999, and has impacted more than a million participants.
“There are definitely some engineers in the bunch,” said Baulsir, “I could see it on their faces.”

Balint said she thinks that providing children with the opportunity to observe engineers at their place of employment and learn about their profession can generate kids' interest in pursuing a career in the field.

“We appreciate what Mr. Baulsir is doing with the group,” said Balint.  “It’s great watching engineers perform work and hearing them talk about what they do allows students to develop an appreciation for the job, recognize the skills involved and make an informed decision about whether they want to learn some of the skills.”

 The Corps recognizes the critical role that Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education plays in enabling the country to remain the economic and technological leaders of the global marketplace, and enabling the Department of Defense and Army in the security of the Nation. 
  The STEM program focuses on these subjects to help youth gain the skills required to succeed in today's challenging world. This includes the ability to think critically, solve complex problems, and drive advancements in science and technology.
Science and engineering jobs are growing 70 percent faster than other occupations.  This means students involved in these areas will be at an advantage when competing for the high-tech, high-wage jobs of the future.

This advantage bodes well for the Noodle Warriors, Baulsir said.

“Science is awesome,” said Ben Menko, 11, a fifth-grader, who loves science and wants to become an engineer.

“I’m glad the examples worked and the kids are learning more about engineering,” said Baulsir.  “The coolest part is when you see someone have the light bulb go on and they ask an intuitive question or, when I tell them, ‘You can be an engineer,’ and they say, ‘Me?’”

For more information on how the Nashville District can inspire young people involved with science, technology, engineering and mathematics, please visit the STEM support page.