Two Don Bosco Technical Institute students recently had the opportunity to share their love of engineering with younger students at a nearby middle school in Whittier — all done in the name of science as well as in the spirit of Don Bosco.Indeed, the scene in the trailer of the Youth Science Center (YSC) at the Whittier Area Community Day School had the busy-ness of elves in Santa’s workshop with middle school students — and their student advisors — sawing, hammering and building with focused intent. The construction project was a four-foot-long wind tunnel that would test the aerodynamics of various modes of transportation (in this case, a series of small hand-crafted pine wood derby cars). Overseeing the hubbub of activity were the Bosco students, sophomore Max Wellnitz and junior Alex San Miguel, who were showing the younger students the steps they took when the pair built their first-place science fair wind tunnel project. “I felt like a project manager, the head engineer, which is what I eventually want to do,” said San Miguel of how he and Wellnitz took control of the project from start to finish with only minimal supervision. “We weren’t too scared about teaching the kids. We knew we had to put the explanations into simpler words and use lots of visual aids. That helped them a lot!”The Whittier middle-schoolers attend the non-traditional school for students who need special attention to help them succeed academically. The YSC at the school provides hands-on science and engineering instruction — and this wind tunnel project fit perfectly into that mission.Richard Shope, YSC director, was thrilled this project connected his school with Bosco. “I hope this can be the start of a good partnership with Bosco,” he said. “The enthusiasm San Miguel and Wellnitz brought to us was outstanding — and we now have a wind tunnel for our program and can build a curriculum around it.”The intersecting lines of the Bosco and Whittier students started two years ago when Wellnitz and San Miguel partnered for a school-wide science fair. The two met in a science class and both discovered that “we’re both into engineering and cars,” explains Wellnitz. “We hit it off right away.”Working weekends and after school, the two created a wind tunnel which took first place. This year, the team decided to perfect their wind tunnel using wood and particle board along with the power of a small leaf blower. “It was so much better than last year’s,” said San Miguel. “We really improved.”Once again, the pair took first place and their project was entered in the Los Angeles County Science and Engineering Fair this past March at the Pasadena Convention Center. It was exciting for both students to be around other “brainiac” projects as well as talk to judges and fellow students about what they have learn about aerodynamics with their wind tunnel.Little did the pair know that they — and all the entries — were being scouted by a group of middle school students from YSC. Right before they were to enter the convention center, Shope instructed his students to “flip the roles,” put on the judges’ mantle and find a project that appealed to them, something they would like to try.Their interest piqued, the students perused the exhibits, taking notes and talking with the presenters. After an hour and half, they zeroed in on Wellnitz and San Miguel. While the project was appealing (“they had just built their pinewood derby race car models and wanted to do something with them” said Shope), it was the engaging and personable style of Wellnitz and San Miguel that really won them over. “As I talked with the two, I saw them getting more excited about teaching our students,” said Shope, who also serves on the L.A. County Science and Engineering Fair Committee and has various science connections locally. He’s hoping to give Wellnitz and San Miguel a tour of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory this summer.“More experienced students teaching less experienced students is a fantastic model,” said Shope about the building day which was captured on film by a Don Bosco videographer. It took two hours for the wind tunnel to be built. “This is so cool,” was a commonly heard phrase as the middle schoolers tried out their pine wood cars in the tunnel. “These two Bosco students gave 100 percent and their enthusiasm was above and beyond what we expected,” said Shope. For Wellnitz and San Miguel, the morning lesson was just an extension of what they are being taught at Don Bosco — to give of one’s own talents to others.“Teaching other students, especially those who are academically challenged, is a way to embody what Don Bosco did as he taught others,” said San Miguel. “It was really rewarding to be able to give back and teach these kids. It was a lot of fun and we’d do it again!”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0524/bosco/{/gallery}