The Middle East District (MED) Engineering Division staff mentored local high school student Josh Dalton throughout the spring semester of this school year.
The Millbrook High School junior, spent every other afternoon at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters in Winchester. Through the Gifted Independent Study program, Dalton was afforded the opportunity to volunteer intern/shadow Army Corps of Engineers professionals here.
“He exhibited professionalism as he shadowed and assisted engineers throughout multiple disciplines to learn about engineering and gain experience,” said Jeff Raney, chief of Engineering’s Site and Building Design Branch. “Josh worked diligently to develop his own engineering design project. He chose to build a Popsicle stick bridge, and develop a structural design to determine the anticipated capacity of the bridge.”
Dalton was mentored by the District’s High School Intern Program Coordinator and Structural Engineer Nathan Fox who said that Josh was a quick learner. “We showed him the engineering analysis software and he picked it up really quickly. He worked independently and put together a very successful project that exceeded all expectations.”
On ‘bridge break day’ Dalton, his mentor, most of Engineering Division and a few other interested MED team members watched as his bridge was load-tested to determine the actual capacity.
Although the bridge didn’t hold as much weight as they’d predicted, Fox said it was great to be able to go back and watch the video of the bridge break in slow motion, to see where it failed first and then work out how to build it better. The overall consensus seemed to be that the original calculations were based on a popsicle stick made of stronger wood than what was actually used to build the bridge. When the calculations were redone using birch for the popsicle stick, they were within five pounds of where the bridge actually failed.
“We were all impressed by how violently the bridge broke,” said Raney. “Josh learned quickly, worked independently and put together a very successful project that exceeded all expectations.”
“My favorite part was working with the software,” said Dalton. “And I learned several valuable specifics based on the break pattern.”
Dalton, who has now decided that he is very interested in pursuing engineering, presented his bridge design-build project clearly and professionally at the Gifted Independent Study Showcase at James Wood High School and again for his mentors and other engineers at the District recently.
“Josh’s work reflected very favorably on our organization,” said Raney. “We thank him for his hard work this semester and congratulate him on his success.”
Raney said he intends to continue to offer shadowing and mentoring experiences to local high school students.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a leader in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education and outreach and the Middle East District is very active in its support. The District and its professionals are committed to providing STEM-related assistance to schools and young to assist the United States in remaining an economic and technological leader while supporting Department of Defense and Department of Army in the security of our nation.