Summer SAVY 2013, Session 3 – Engineering 101, Morning Section (Day 5)
Engineering 101 (Rising 2nd/3rd) – Day 5
After wrapping up our engineering design challenge, where students brainstormed and presented their engineering ideas for treating asthma, we jumped into understanding how optical illusions work. Students were shown ten different types of optical illusions to challenge their understanding of how our vision and brain interact with one another. Students were very interested in attempting to understand these illusions as many of them had great ideas or concepts of their functionality. Discussing optical illusions allowed us to move directly into how our nervous system interacts with our five senses and where they are primarily controlled in the brain.
To better understand the functionality of the human nervous system, the central nervous system (CNS) and peripheral nervous system (PNS) were explained in terms of how neurons contain a protective layer to transmit a signal throughout the body. Students learned that an insulating material called a myelin sheath allows for a faster and more precise transmission of a signal. The giant squid axon was a primary example for explaining how they use a myelinated axon to move their body in water.
Students also expanded their understanding of how engineers design and develop tools that have been inspired by nature. More specifically, we described how engineers are developing higher focus digital cameras that essentially replicate the versatility of a fire ant’s bulging eye. Using what they called microlenses, researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a digital camera with a 160-degree wide field view with nearly infinite depth of field. The 180 microlenses capture a specific angle of the object allowing all parts to be in focus. Students gathered how and why engineers look to nature for inspiration in their ideas, functionality, and application for solving real world problems.