Durham School Children Visit Pratt

Some of the 300 Durham schoolchildren who visited Duke on Feb. 21
included the Pratt School of Engineering in their daylong sample of
college life.

The students, all eighth-graders from nine Durham public schools, will
soon sign up for next year’s classes, which could include college
preparatory courses. Duke’s Office of Community Affairs began
Duke-Durham School Days four years ago to expose these students to a
day on campus, and hopefully create a desire for education beyond high

The students’ first stop was Cameron Indoor Stadium, where they
received a welcome from President Nannerl O. Keohane and other
speakers. Groups of about a dozen students toured campus, stopping at
Duke Chapel, Perkins Library, the Bryan Student Center and dorms. But
their destination was the classroom. As part of the event, professors all
over Duke demonstrated research and technologies.

At Pratt, students saw presentations by Lisa Huettel, assistant professor
of the practice in Electrical and Computer Engineering; Henri Gavin,
associate professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering; and Rachael
Brady, director of the Visualization Technology Group.

Brady introduced the students to what goes on in her 3-D Visualization
Lab. She demonstrated how the computer graphics used in games could
be applied to understanding scientific concepts. She also explained the
unsolved problems of computer graphics, and showed how a typical
computer application, augmented with stereo vision and tracking, became
a virtual environment.

Gavin demonstrated Duke's seismic response control laboratory, which
features a hydraulically powered shaking table for replicating the effects of
earthquakes on scale models of buildings, bridges, and critical
components. Huettel showed the students how metal detectors work.

“After a brief introduction to electromagnetic induction, the students were
given the opportunity to investigate how a metal detector responds to
objects such as a nail, a poker chip, and a penny,” Huettel said. “Then,
they were challenged to use what they had learned to identify hidden
objects. I think the students not only learned about electricity and
magnetism, but also gained an appreciation for some of the challenges
engineers face in designing a detection system that finds only the objects
they are looking for.”