OSU Youth and Community Outreach

Written by: Merritt Reese

Throughout Ohio State’s 30-year participation in the AVTC series history, our EcoCAR team has always been involved with surrounding schools and organizations. This year, the Ohio State University EcoCAR team has placed a special emphasis on community outreach. Since the onset of the pandemic did not allow for in-person outreach last year, our team was committed to conduct as many events as possible in Year 4. Some community events we have been involved in so far include giving local high school students a tour of our facilities, attending a grade school’s science day, and hosting the Boy Scouts of America here at OSU’s Center for Automotive Research (CAR).

At the beginning of the school year, a group of Metro High School students received a tour of the Center for Automotive Research at Ohio State. The tour was for prospective engineering majors and students who showed interest in the engineering field through their classes. Around twenty students and one engineering teacher participated in the tour and informational session that followed. This session detailed the amazing work our EcoCAR team does, as well as the many engineering opportunities at Ohio State. We enjoy showing high school students the amazing facilities at OSU that they could one day utilize should they decide to become a buckeye. The outreach events that we direct with potential students are also very meaningful to the university, as the EcoCAR and AVTC series programs are a unique feature that the university has to offer and help motivate high schoolers to attend OSU.

Members of the EcoCAR team recently attended the Grandview Science Day at Grandview Elementary School. The Grandview Science Day is a day for their students to interact with local companies and technology groups. These organizations provide various educational activities with the goal of informing the students about different areas of science while inspiring them to pursue STEM studies. OSU EcoCAR was extremely excited to be one of the organizations in attendance. At our booth, members of the team introduced the concept of autonomous vehicles and showed the elementary schoolers how autonomous driving works. We provided a map of a highway and objects that represented different vehicles for each participant. One of these objects represented the students’ car, and there were other interactive pieces that represented the fields of view of various radar and camera equipment. The young students were asked to use the pieces to maximize their overall field of view for their car to see as many other cars on the highway as possible. In the picture below, the large, round, red piece our team member is holding up represents a LIDAR. The EcoCAR team members that managed the booth enjoyed teaching the youth in our community the importance of autonomous vehicles.

Another organization that has visited the Center for Automotive Research at Ohio State is the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts’ Columbus headquarters is right down the road from the CAR office, so we were happy to show them around our facilities and help them receive their “Automotive Maintenance Badge.” In order to receive this badge, the boy scouts watched a presentation about various maintenance activities and other information on cars. Our team members then provided hands-on experience by demonstrating the information from this presentation on the Blazer. For the final part of their badge, they went to another automotive shop to physically fix up a car. Not only did the team members enable the Boy Scouts to receive their “Automotive Maintenance Badge,” but they were able to get to know local members of our community and relay their extensive knowledge about automobiles.

In the coming weeks, Ohio State is continuing our community outreach through many tours and different scheduled events. This time, instead of hosting prospective high schoolers, the EcoCAR team is welcoming around 120 sixth graders to our facilities. Members of our team and a few engineering undergraduate students will be conducting tours and educating these grade schoolers about the importance of electric and autonomous vehicles, as well as the future of the automotive industry.

Community outreach is such an important aspect of the EcoCAR program to so many members of our team, and we feel grateful that we can safely participate in them again this year. In the years prior to the onset of the pandemic, the EcoCAR team was doing all that it could to not only positively impact the university, but also the entire surrounding community. Since year 1 of this AVTC series, Ohio State EcoCAR has held 19 youth outreach events and 15 community events. Our current team is excited to maintain a presence in our community through educating the youth about the importance of the automotive industry and its ever-changing nature. We want to continue to show prospective college students the amazing resources Ohio State has to offer and to potentially help them discover a love for engineering that so many of our members possess. We are devoted to having a positive impact on the community around us, and we feel as though the Ohio State team gains just as much from these events as the youth and members of the community that attend them.