Holmes Fire Sponsors Fall 2017 UMD Program for High School Students

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Intro to Math & Physics Through Fire Dynamics students look on as first tree is set alight. Photo provided by Michael Gollner.

The Introduction to Math and Physics through Fire Dynamics course, offered by the UMD Department of Fire Protection Engineering (FPE), is designed to introduce high school students to the fundamental concepts in mathematics, physics and chemistry needed to understand and solve engineering problems, as well as spark their interest in further developing STEM knowledge. Concepts are studied directly through various fire protection engineering applications via a series of lectures and related laboratory experiments. In addition to contextualizing these core concepts, this program introduces fire protection engineering as a field of study and professional opportunity. Such an exposure allows students, often for the first time, to understand how and why the profession exists and what career roles are possible for them.

The course, formally initiated in the fall of 2013, has welcomed over 100 applicants – two of whom are currently FPE students – and will continue thanks to the support of Holmes Fire, a fire engineering and safety consulting firm based in San Francisco. This fall, the program was taught by FPE graduate student, Julie Bryant (B.S. ’16), with assistance from FPE undergraduate student Matthew Weston-Dawkes.  A total of 16 high school student were accepted into the program, including one who tuned-in remotely via Dubai.  Some examples of topics covered in the program include:

  • Understanding the physics and math behind the fire problem; derivatives, flame spread lab
  • Upward flame spread; scalars vs. vectors
  • Fire kinematics; candle flame lab
  • Flame temperature, color, and fuel controlled fire behaviors; Intro to radiation & spectral emission; flame colors lab
  • Intro to fire chemistry; balancing equations
  • Adiabatic flame temperature calculations
  • Writing workshop; final project experiments
  • Student presentations

“This course gives high school students the opportunity to learn about STEM topics in a fun and engaging way,” said Bryant. “The goal of this class is to expose underrepresented student groups to the STEM arena and the endless opportunities available in the field, even beyond fire protection. That said, STEM subjects such as calculus, chemistry and heat transfer are difficult topics to understand – but through lab experiments and real world application, we hope to encourage young students to further study these foci. I would like to personally thanks Holmes Fire Protection for their finical support in this invaluable course.” 

The final experiment the course members conducted was a Christmas tree fire safety demonstration, which included a series of live fire experiments on both natural and artificial Christmas trees to show the burning behavior (size, intensity and growth rate) of typical Christmas tree fires; specifically, those that haven’t been sufficiently hydrated.   

Published December 20, 2017