Educational program to promote STEM and healthy lifestyle

The TECHFIT workshop is designed for increasing students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and is offered at Purdue University and the College of Charleston.


Figure 1: College of Charleston’s Michael and Susan Flynn, Balluff’s Will Healy III, and Purdue University’s Brad and Alka Harriger posing together at the 2014 TECHFIT workshop at Purdue University in Indiana. Courtesy: BalluffTECHFIT (Teaching Engineering Concepts to Harness Future Innovators and Technologists) is a program designed to provide opportunities for children and youth to explore, learn and engage in activities related to the STEM disciplines, and provide students the tools to learn about being healthy for a lifetime. TECHFIT is offered at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina. The program trains middle school teachers of multiple disciplines to run an after school program on the use of basic automation technologies like PLC logic, DC wiring techniques, pushbuttons, indicators, and sensor technologies combined with fitness.

The program started as a collaboration between four professors: Brad Harriger, Professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology at Purdue University; Alka Harriger, Professor of Computer and Information Technology at Purdue University, and Susan & Mike Flynn, Professors in Exercise Science and Sport Pedagogy at the College of Charleston.

"We looked at existing systems like Dance Dance Revolution and Wii Fit and wondered how we could use something similar to get kids excited about our academic fields," said Brad Harriger, the principle collaborator.

Figure 2: Will Healy III of Balluff, Inc. training teachers at the TECHFIT 2014 workshop at Purdue University on July 17th 2014. Courtesy: BalluffTECHFIT received a grant from the National Science Foundation as well as product donations from Phoenix Contact, Automation Direct, and Balluff. Using these donations, students will create interactive fitness games, wire the sensors, and program the logic of their games. Some of the kids' ideas include using sensors to count pushups, measure the height of squats, or count kicked soccer goals.

"The opportunity to work with TECHFIT helps us imbue middle school students with an interest in automation, which can benefit everyone in manufacturing," said Will Healy III, strategic marketing manager for Balluff Inc.

In the fall, students will begin developing and building their games to compete in a showcase taking place in December 2014 at Purdue University and College of Charleston.


-Edited by CFE Media. See more Control Engineering PLCs and PACs stories.

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