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April 17, 2015
by: Tad Phippen Wente

Madison trip offers juniors a close look at college options

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IDEAS Academy Class of 2016 woke early for a day in Madison on April 15. First stop was the University of Wisconsin for a general overview and campus walking tour. 

Special tours came next. One group visited The School of Human Ecology, where college students work with design to solve a myriad of human problems. Another group visited the Site-Based Engineering Lab (SBEL), where mechanical engineering researchers develop software, computer programs and animation to solve problems such as how to keep a rover moving efficiently on unknown terrain or how to measure relationships among a million grains of sand.

Dan Melanz, terramechanic researcher and Ph.D. candidate, shared his work through animations and a power point subtitled, "Why Playing Video Games is a Good Idea." He determines how solid and non-solid materials and surfaces, such as rover wheels and gravel on the moon, affect each other. Melanz is an SASD graduate.

Students (pictured below) viewed the inside of one component of the huge computer system used by mechanical engineers at UW to develop software solutions for real-world applications. The computers have no screens, so the engineers test their programming through observing outcomes.

After the tour, State Street was the scene for lunch. Students had time to relax, eat, and experience the feeling of being on their own as a "college student." 

The afternoon included a tour of Madison Media Institute, a hands-on school, featuring video and sound production studios and equipment, graphic design, technology, and the ways these interface in the creative process to make albums, video games, movies and advertising. 

In a Junior Institute April 16, the group discussed their take-aways from the trip with a Compass Points Thinking Routine. They also filled out Field Report Reflection forms for their portfolios as a record of their experience and responses.

The Madison trip was required for juniors as part of the IDEAS Academy College Readiness Program, which seeks to prepare students to make well-informed, good decisions about their futures.

Families may wish to arrange individualized tours of UW or MMI for a closer look at specific majors.
SBEL offers a free high school engineering camp: http://outreach.sbel.wisc.edu/ProCSI/
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