LU engineering students build new STEAM exhibit at the Beaumont Children’s Museum


With a single piece of paper and a runway, three Lamar University engineering students –– Matthew Anderson, Kenneth Edwards and Mauricio Franco –– have designed the newest STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) exhibit at the Beaumont Children’s Museum.

In early spring, the Beaumont Children’s Museum received the new Paper Airplane Launcher through a grant. The white high-density polyethylene machine is designed to send paper airplanes whirling through the air, allowing museum goers of all ages to observe aerodynamic flight principles such as thrust, lift and drag.

According to Dr. Brian Craig, dean of the College of Engineering, the Beaumont Children’s Museum searched for a way to have guests play with the launcher safely without hitting others with the fast-launching paper planes. He leaped at the opportunity to get LU engineering students involved with the project. 

“I thought it was important to not only to provide a neat exhibit to help the Beaumont Children’s Museum possibly inspire future generations of engineers, but to also increase the College of Engineering’s involvement in support of our community,” Craig said. “I was extremely impressed with the thoughtful design, functionality and quality of the finished arena. It is really going to fuel the engineering flames in future generations while being very fun for (children) and their parents.”

The college sought volunteers to work on the enclosed runway for the exhibit and Anderson, a senior mechanical engineering major, was the first to express his interest.

“Haley Strahan, the director of outreach and student services, reached out asking for volunteers to work on the project and I stepped up and made a team with some of my friends,” he said. paper-airplane-launcher-building

After roping in Edwards and Franco, the team began working on the project in early March.

“At the start, there were a lot of issues. We designed the runway to fit perfectly, but we learned we had to scale down to fit the pieces together,” Edwards said. “We had to weld everything together and that was a learning experience itself. The weather was so hot, so we had to weld at night. It was hard with just three of us, but I’m very proud of how we managed.”

After four months of planning, ordering parts, welding and building, the team finally finished the 21-feet-long, 8-feet-tall structure.

“The Beaumont Children’s Museum is thankful to the talented Lamar University engineering students, Matthew Anderson, Kenneth Edwards and Mauricio Franco, for their professional work that was applied to creating and building the new Paper Airplane Launch Runway,” said Amanda Yarbrough, executive director of the Beaumont Children’s Museum. “This Launch is important to our mission here at the museum because it provides opportunities of STEAM learning through a hands-on exhibit where the parents and children work together and play.”

The museum director added, “The launch concept focuses on engineering, art and math though creative thinking, design, physics, geometry, troubleshooting, persistence and more. A paper airplane is so much more than meets the eye.”