Skip to main content

The City Journals

Teens Explore Architecture, Engineering at Library

Aug 10, 2016 03:30PM ● By Tori LaRue

Teens collaborate in a competition to build the tallest tower out of KEVA planks during a summer STEM camp at the Taylorsville Library –Tori La Rue

By Tori La Rue | [email protected] 

A building prototype crashed to the floor as four teams of teens competed to create the tallest tower out of KEVA planks during a summer STEM camp at the Taylorsville library.
“Oh, you guys were so close,” volunteer instructor Melissa Ivie said as audible "nos" and gasps escaped the mouths of the four teens whose building was now a clump of blocks on the floor.
The teens scurried to make up for lost time, rebuilding their tower that ended up being the second-tallest building by the time the clock ran out. The three-hour camp continued with fundamental engineering lessons, architecture studies and bridge and home prototype construction. Salt Lake County Library Services and USU Extension partnered to bring the program to teens to engage them in learning activities during their summer break.
Mackenzie Bach, 15, and two of her younger siblings attended the camp, and she said it was a great activity for them to work on together that allowed them to get out of the house.
“It’s really fun,” Mackenzie said. “Usually we like playing video games and things, so it was nice to be able to do something real. I think it helps us to think a little so we’re not just brain dead all summer.”
Ivie watched as Mackenzie and the 15 other teens tried to make the most “earthquake-resistant building” with KEVA planks, thin, stackable building blocks. Some of the buildings were built in octagonal shapes. Others were made by stacking the blocks directly on top of each other in a rectangle. Ivie described the teens’ creation process as “very entertaining.”
“I love working with the kids when they learn new things,” she said. “I love engineering and STEM. They are passions of mine that I enjoy getting to do with other people. Just how cool these teens think STEM is makes it fun.”
Ivie, a computer science major at Utah State, has a deep history with STEM projects. Her father is a computer engineer, and her mother studied engineering in college, so her family oftentimes did STEM projects together when she was growing up, she said. Now, as a Utah State extension volunteer, she has the opportunity to do similar projects with students who may not have the same resources that she did at home.
Lucas Carpenter, 16, said Ivie was a great instructor who helped him learn about infrastructure and how to work as a team.
“If you learn to work as a team, that will affect every part of your education,” he said.
Lucas said he hopes to attend more events like the summer STEM camp in the future.