DVIDS – News – Army Engineers Promote STEM Education and Careers at Engineers Week Alaska


Armed with toothpicks and marshmallows, members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Alaska District held outreach events at four Anchorage schools to mark National Engineers Week Feb. 20-26. The annual celebration is dedicated to ensuring a future diverse and well-educated engineering workforce by increasing understanding and interest in science, technology, engineering and math careers.

“I appreciate employees taking time out of their busy schedules to impact the lives of young people,” said Lt. Col. Virginia Brickner, deputy district commander. “Engineers Week, along with other outreach efforts throughout the year, is so important because we are expanding young minds and helping to shape our future STEM professionals.”

STEM fields are increasingly important to the future economic, scientific and national security posture of the country. According to various reports, however, the United States faces a potential shortage of college graduates with STEM degrees. As one of the world’s largest public engineering agencies tasked with providing solutions to the nation’s toughest challenges, USACE recognizes the need for skilled STEM professionals and is committed to expanding the talent pool. .

In Alaska, E-Week provided a great opportunity to engage with local youth and spark an interest in these technical disciplines through hands-on experience.

Engineers, scientists, and project managers from across the district spoke to more than 100 students about career paths within USACE while teaching them the fundamentals of bridge design. They also helped students build bridges out of toothpicks and marshmallows, testing the structures’ strength under the weight of toy cars.

“What a great experience to see the kids excited about the bridge building activity and all their amazing creativity in designing different bridges!” said Environmental Engineering Section Chief Lisa Geist. “The sticky fingers and the competitive challenge for most cars on the bridges was a ton of fun!”

During the week, students in seven classes used nearly 7,000 mini marshmallows and more than 5,000 toothpicks to build their bridge projects. The most heavily weight-bearing structure was built by a student at Pacific Northern Academy, whose bridge carried the load of five toy cars with no signs of buckling.

Outreach efforts began at Clark Middle School on Feb. 23, where USACE representatives spoke to an applied technology class. The team included Nathan Epps, acting deputy chief of the Engineering, Construction and Operations Division; Major Kathryn Hermon, project manager; and Matthew Schiavi, Civil Engineering Technician.

“It was so fun to share what I do with the students and show them career areas they might never have considered,” Hermon said.

Epps showed students how to videotape their bridge tests in slow motion to determine areas that needed strengthening. Using the pictures, the children adjusted their structures, allowing the engineers to explain how design is an iterative process.

Seven district members then spent Feb. 24 at Pacific Northern Academy and Dimond High School, interacting with fourth, seventh, eighth and ninth grade classes.

While at Dimond, several junior ROTC students were thrilled to learn that Hermon, a Palmer native, also participated in the program that led her to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and become an engineer officer in the army.

“I think it’s important for students to see someone like them when they start to think about their future,” Hermon said of the importance of attending events like these and serving as a role model for young people considering their future educational choices and career plans.

John Rajek, a civil engineer, worked with a student who was struggling with changes in his personal life that day, encouraging him to try different methods to build a successful bridge.

“From day one of school, this kid told me he wanted to be a pilot when he grew up,” said Alina Delarosa, a fourth-grade teacher at Pacific Northern Academy. “After [the bridge-building session], he said ‘Ms. D, I’ll be an engineer when I grow up because [John] told me that I had the mind of an engineer! »

By conducting outreach activities, the district aims to inspire the next generation of science, technology, engineering, and math professionals while raising awareness of USACE’s mission. Ultimately, the commitments are about empowering young people to pursue their dreams and maximize their potential.

“I also had one of my daughters who told me [the next] morning, ‘Mrs. D, I didn’t know there were female engineers. I think I might want to try this! “Said Delarosa.

District staff wrapped up the week at Lake Hood Elementary School on Feb. 25, where they spoke with 20 sixth graders.

Civil engineer Virginia Groeschel emphasized the importance of schedule, scope and budget when answering a student’s question about the availability of resources during bridge construction.

“When we build a project, we think about SSB – timeline, scope and budget,” she said. “We don’t have unlimited resources or time, and we have to make sure that we achieve the goal that the client gives us.”

However, for the bridge-building activity, students were given unlimited toothpicks and marshmallows to complete their structures.

Groeschel also emphasized to students that math and science don’t have to be their best subjects to pursue an engineering degree.

“As you’ve seen today with all the bridges you’ve built, creativity is just as important for engineering,” she said. “If you love art and creativity, engineering is a great career field for you.”

Date taken: 03.04.2022
Date posted: 03.04.2022 16:00
Story ID: 415816

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