Did you know that George Washington was considered the nation’s first engineer, notably for his survey work? The celebration of Engineer’s Week was started in 1951, in conjunction with Washington’s birthday, by the National Society of Professional Engineers.
The purpose of National Engineers Week, celebrated this year on February 16-22, is to call attention to the contributions that engineers make to society, and to emphasize the importance of learning math, science, and technical skills.
Stanley Consultants, a consulting engineering firm based in Iowa, has taken this purpose one step further and uses the event to promote engineering as a career.
The theme of Engineers Week 2014 is “Let’s Make a Difference.” Since 2006, Stanley Consultants has been making a difference by teaming with engineering teachers at Muscatine High School, in Muscatine, Iowa, to provide students with real-life examples of the engineering concepts they learn in the classroom, and introduce the students to the variety of career choices within the field of engineering.
This is accomplished through an annual engineering field trip and activities day where the students design and build a project; have a conversation with an engineer; and tour a facility.
This year the students will break into small teams and, in a 60-minute period, build a crane, boat, balloon-powered car, or kicking machine. They will have access to professional engineers, but are expected to create their own, unique design. The projects are then critiqued and tested to see which has the most durable design.
While eating lunch, the students can speak with young engineers who recently graduated from college. Older engineers have more project experience, but recent graduates can better relate to the pressures faced by high school students to make college and career decisions.
“Stanley Consultants’ engineers have a great connection with our pre-engineering students,” said Taylor L. Fountain, the Industrial Technology/PLTW Engineering teacher at Muscatine High School.
A facility tour concludes the day. Recent tours through local firms such as Heinz, Monsanto, Grain Processing Corporation, Muscatine Power & Water, Kinze, and Kone help the students distinguish the differences within the various engineering disciplines and see the role engineers play in a real-world setting. This year the students will tour Allsteel and the HNI Tech Center in Muscatine.
“Events like this really make a difference to the student’s understanding of engineering,” said Fountain. “The students love designing and building projects and then competing for the prize. It helps them to develop a better grasp of basic engineering principals. The local tours reveal the wide array of career opportunities within the field of engineering. And as simple as it sounds, just sitting down for a casual conversation with a practicing engineer who is just a few years older than them, makes the whole idea of actually becoming an engineer seem possible.”
For more on National Engineers Week, visit: http://www.nspe.org/resources/partners-and-state-societies/national-engineers-week.