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Posted 2/27/2017

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By Julie Shoemaker
Middle East District


National Engineers Week was celebrated at several levels by the Commander and work force of the Middle East District Feb. 24, 2017.

TAM Commander Col. Patrick Kinsman started the day with a presentation on Engineering at the local DOD STARBASE Academy in Winchester, Va. STARBASE is a DoD program, focused on elementary students, designed to motivate them to explore Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) as they continue their education.  The District supports STARBASE events with quarterly presentations whenever possible.

Twenty-eight fifth grade students from Evandale Elementary School interacted with Kinsman, or ‘Seahawk’ -- his selected and kid-approved call sign. Although they had a lot of questions for Kinsman about the Army, he was able to quickly focus them on the engineering part of his job as he described it provided them with some historical information on engineering.

“My job is even cooler,” he said. “As an Army Engineer Soldier, I get to help build stuff,” and added in a whisper: “and I get to blow stuff up!”

After discussing the tallest buildings in the world and the United States, and the highest bridge in the United States, Kinsman gave the kids some advice, “Never quit. Do not give up; always give your best effort. There’s a quote: ‘If it’s to be, it’s up to me.’ Remember that always.”

Following the discussion, teams of students were tasked with developing a design for a bridge and building it within one hour, using just 100 Popsicle sticks and hot glue. Once construction was completed, there was a weight-bearing test for each bridge. The winning bridge, Team Bravo’s, held the top weight of 43.5 pounds.

“Let me point out what happened here,” said Kinsman. “When there was just five minutes to go in the construction phase, this team still had two sides and a bottom. They weren’t assembled. But did they give up? No they did not. Remember: ‘if it’s to be, it is up to me’.”

While the STARBASE event was finishing up, many TAM team members were assembling in the conference room to compete in their own version of the Popsicle stick bridge build as TAM inaugurated their first annual “Engineers Week Cup,” competition. An open challenge was presented to all TAM team members to build a bridge, with the same criteria used at STARBASE. Ten teams accepted the challenge and produced bridges of varying shapes and sizes.

TAM’s Deputy Commander LTC Taneha Carter started the weight-bearing showdown at noon on Feb. 24. After nearly an hour of testing, there were still five bridges in the running. One bridge held a record-high 175 pounds, but with stretched-to-the-limit bungie straps and sagging milk crates holding the weights, judging was halted and postponed until a better judging process could be developed. 

Program Manager Ric Terrazas said that he learned a lot participating in this contest. "A week ago, I would admit I've heard of a super structure, now I can say I understand the principals behind the superstructure and the substructure.   This was a great opportunity to partake and have fun in this Engineers Week Activity.  I look forward to next year's event."

The semi-finalists’ bridges were sequestered in the commander’s office and the judging will continue in the next week with stronger testing equipment. A final victor will be declared and presented the Engineers Week Cup then.