MITRE Participates in Outside the Box Day

Recently, more than 30 MITRE employees participated in the 5th annual Outside the Box Day at Dranesville Elementary School in Herndon, VA. Outside the Box Day, planned and implemented by a dedicated group of MITRE employees each year, is a STEM event where students complete a STEM design brief. And for one MITRE employee, Omed Amin, staff systems engineer, it was also a return to his alma mater.

Amin attended Dranesville Elementary for kindergarten, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade. He returned for Outside the Box Day to find the school much smaller than he remembered. He also found some familiar faces, including his fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Kristine Wooten. He was assigned to volunteer in a class of kindergarteners. The teacher introduced him by saying, “Omed’s a real engineer.” He was reminded of his own time in kindergarten and smiled when he saw the young students sit up and listen intently.

Each STEM design brief is tailored to the grade level of the student. Amin helped his class with Magnet Motion, during which they designed an object that could be pushed or pulled on a course using only magnets. Amin noted similarities to the waterfall method used in systems engineering, and was impressed by how the things MITRE engineers do can be applied to help students learn engineering principles.

While Amin helped a class of kindergarteners, the rest of the classes were hard at work as well:

  • First graders designed a dream house based on a book they read.
  • Second graders built Monarch butterfly carrying cases.
  • Third graders designed air-powered vehicles that could deliver medical supplies without traditional fuel.
  • Fourth graders designed wearable technology that could be used by medical personnel to provide light without holding a flashlight or wearing a headlamp.
  • Fifth graders built bridges to help deliver medical supplies.
  • Sixth graders designed vehicles that could air drop fragile medical supplies safely. These medical supplies were represented by an egg, and were tested by dropping an egg in a prototype vehicle from a fire truck ladder.

By the end of the activities, the whole school was assembled outside, anxiously awaiting the egg drop. Students gathered on the baseball field while a firetruck from the Fairfax County Fire Department pulled up, to a cheering and applauding crowd. Cries of “Drop that egg!” were heard long before the firefighters began testing the prototypes the sixth graders built.

The students did a great job solving the problems they were given. Amin is already planning to volunteer next year.

—by Ashley Kinney