Creativity beats convention any day, and money has to be used wisely. Those were some of the observations echoed by Pleasantville High School students who participated in a recent workshop at the school coordinated by members of Rutgers University's Minority Engineering Education Task, or MEET.

About 80 students from the high school's math and science departments got real world problem-solving experience during the event, held for the first time at the high school.

"We were not expecting it to be as wonderful as it was, but it was such an amazing event," said math teacher Lisa Betty, who helped to arrange the event.

MEET is Rutgers University's Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, sponsored by the College of Engineering, of New Brunswick. With more than 30,000 members, the National Society of Black Engineers is one of the largest student-governed organizations in the country. The mission of MEET/Rutgers NSBE is to increase the number of culturally responsible minority engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively affect the community, according to the group's website.

Held in the school cafeteria, the workshop involved students working in teams to design, build and operate a trebuchet. Students were allowed to do research on their phones and each team had a Rutgers "adviser." The challenge for competing the task was the limited resources of materials and finance. Each team was given $3,000 of play Monopoly money. The trebuchet design success factors were the distance an object was propelled and the least amount spent.

"The money aspect was wonderful, particularly when the Rutgers students would make a surprise announcement regarding a change in the prices of an item (such a duct tape) or to close and open the store," Betty said.

"I learned that making an invention isn't easy. You must know how to manage your money well and make sure that all the supplies purchased are usable to the invention. If not, it was just a waste of time and money," said student Emicelys Troche.

Student Aileen Madrid said she learned during the workshop that if a team is not on the same page, things will not work out.

Monique Mullings said she not only learned that working as a group is vital to the success of a project, but also that engineering is something she is starting to like.

Betty said the workshop was a fun way to convince students of the importance of engineering programs.

In addition to the workshop, Rutgers student engineers explained the different types of engineering careers and academic requirements, and they shared their college experiences. The interaction, and one-on-one conversations that Pleasantville students had with the Rutgers engineers, brought the idea of attending college and majoring in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) closer to their reality, Betty said.

The event was hosted by the Pleasantville High School NSBE Jr Chapter. NSBE JR Chapter officers are: Aileen T. Madrid, president, Dhara Patel, vice president, Evelyn Coulbourne, secretary and Tymil K. Patterson, treasurer.

NSBE Jr. advisors include math teacher Eric Clark and NSBE alumni adviser Dr. Basilyn Bunting.

Contact Lucia C. Drake:

609-272-7295