School of Engineering teams up with Sikorsky at company’s Family Day

Faculty and students invited to inspire a new generation of engineers at company’s much-anticipated event

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Electrical engineering major Joshua Estrada helps a future engineer learn about the Magnus effect at Sikorsky Family Day

University of Bridgeport engineers teamed up with Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., a Lockheed Martin company, to help celebrate the wonders of flight during the company’s Family Day on Saturday, October 14.

Lockheed Martin hosts Family Days every other year to honor its employees and their families. Saturday’s private celebration in Stratford, CT, home of Sikorsky’s H-60 Black Hawk helicopter and other iconic aircraft, drew more than 15,000 attendees.

The day was filled with events, from helicopter fly-overs to live music, simulated flight games, robotics demonstrations, a picnic, and a special STEM Village, where the School of Engineering was invited to lead a hands-on activity to help shed light on the theme of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Fourteen faculty, staff, and engineering majors volunteered.

“We’re excited to be part of this much-anticipated event,” said Mechanical Engineering Professor Jani Pallis PhD. “Although we think of engineering as a specialized endeavor, it’s also about experimentation and adventure—making, breaking, and trying again. That’s often when ‘Ah ha!’ moments of understanding occur. That’s why our outreach on Saturday is geared toward helping people of all ages better understand their relatives’ work at Sikorsky.”

So they built Magnus Fliers.

Constructed with simple materials—rubber bands, cups, and tape—the fliers elegantly demonstrate the Magnus effect, an aerodynamic phenomena observed in spinning spheres or cylinders where the flight path curves and has applications to sports balls, ballistics, certain aircraft, and rotor ships.

Jason Soper and his son Jacob, 5, were thrilled with the project. As UB electrical engineering major Joshua Estrada helped Jacob send a flier aloft with a hearty tug of a strip of rubber, Soper beamed. “I personally love physics and science,” he said. “We watch a lot of YouTube videos and do stuff like this. I don’t want to tell Jacob what to do, but I definitely give him a nudge.”

Sharon Dephillips and her daughter, Grace, 4, chatted with Professor Ruba Deeb, who is director of biomedical research development at UB. As Deeb and the young girl built a flier, Dephillips said she was particularly pleased that her daughter was interacting with UB’s female faculty and students.

“It’s great to expose little girls to engineering,” Dephillips said. “Growing up, I didn’t have that. It was, ‘You’ll be a secretary.’ But Grace will probably go back to nursery school on Monday and talk about how she saw helicopters and how she built a little plane.”

Parents at similar events often “express the same hope for their children. They want them to be exposed to STEM and inspired by it,” said Pallis. “It’s one reason why the School of Engineering is committed to collaborating and supporting outside institutions, whether it’s at Sikorsky or somewhere else.”

Currently, School of Engineering and other UB faculty teach professional development workshops for K-12 teachers on behalf of the Connecticut Space Grant Consortium. They also run numerous activities for the public and students at the Discovery Museum and Planetarium in Bridgeport, CT. Faculty continually develop and host free classes for high school students to expose them to STEM fields like data analytics, coding, and artificial intelligence.

Nationally, Pallis and a team of engineering majors teamed up with NASA to conduct scientific testing and live stream the Great American Eclipse from Kentucky. UB students are currently gearing up to send additional research to the International Space Station in the spring of 2018.

Engineering students who volunteered their time included Gukyoung An, Neha Pasnoori, Mustafa Al-Azdee, Joshua Estrada, and Patricio “Xavier” Flores.

School of Engineering Dean Tarek Sobh noted that Family Day was “one way that the School of Engineering and Lockheed Martin collaborate. We have students who intern and go on to work for them.”

As if on cue, the UB team was thrilled to reconnect with Jeffrey Fleurantin ’15 (M.S. Mechanical Engineering) soon after the Family Day STEM Village opened on Saturday morning. Fleurantin is a ground test engineer at Sikorsky and Pallis’s former student, and he greeted her with a massive bear hug. Then he announced some big news: he had recently been chosen to serve on Lockheed Martin’s Engineering Leadership Development Program.

Pallis congratulated Fleurantin then headed off to build Magnus Fliers. It was time to inspire tomorrow’s engineers.

Media contact: Leslie Geary, (203) 576-4625, lgeary@bridgeport.edu

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