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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU STEM Education Students Create Interactive Toys for Cancer Patients at CHKD

By Brendan O'Hallarn

Old Dominion University's newest venture in STEM-H (science, technology, engineering, math and health care) will benefit youngsters just in time for the holidays.

Students in Petros Katsioloudis' Manufacturing and Construction course have researched, designed, fabricated and tested three categories of toys that use the spatial skills that STEM education seeks to develop.

Now that these toys have been manufactured, they will be donated to young cancer patients at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters in Norfolk on Dec. 6.

"This project greatly benefits students, but will also hopefully put a smile of the face of the children before Christmas," said Katsioloudis, associate professor and chair of STEM Education and Professional Studies in the Darden College of Education.

The initial reception by hospital staff and oncologists was overwhelmingly positive. "They are excited to see what the students came up with," Katsioloudis said.

For the youngest patients, a colorful puzzle of a fish was created. Children in the middle age group (approximately ages 7 to 13) will receive a three-dimensional puzzle of ODU mascot Big Blue. The oldest patients, up to age 22, will receive a logic puzzle, where they will have to assemble blocks in the proper pattern to form a self-standing orb.

Katsioloudis said each of the three student groups came up with the concept of a toy, as well as the manufacturing procedures.

"It was really a great exercise, working through the manufacturing process. The students went from taking five hours to make one of the prototypes to being able to produce a toy in five minutes," he said. A total of 60 toys were made by the students.

Josh Jones, a senior from Norfolk, used his art background to create the image of the lion. "We all wanted to put in 110 percent because we knew where these toys were going. It made us really motivated to do good work," he said.

Chase Smith, a junior from Virginia Beach, said the semester-long exercise offered a great demonstration of the hands-on possibilities in STEM. "It feels good that something we're working on in class can result in creating something that can be so useful in real life," Smith said.

Katsioloudis' class was aided during the semester by students from STEM 231, Material and Processes Technology, taught by Basim Matrood, lecturer of STEM and professional studies.

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