Day with an Engineer highlights career field

Middle East District
Published April 23, 2010
Students from 10 local area high schools attend the Middle East District’s Day with an Engineer event March 23. The students, who have expressed an interest in the career field, and school counselors spent the day learning about engineering from the various disciplines, architecture, and project management. Photo by Jan Dove.

The Middle East District hosted 48 high school students and 10 counselors for a Day with an Engineer on March 23. The students, from 10 local area high schools, have expressed interest in engineering careers.

Led by Engineering Division Chief Roger Vogler and team leader Daniel Rivera, a team of MED professionals developed a full agenda of presentations about individual engineering disciplines, architecture and project management.

Following a welcome and broad overview of the engineering career field by MED Commander Col. Ron Light, the team provided the students with a series of short presentations on various engineering disciplines. Leading off was Richard Byers talking about civil engineering.

“The basic premise of civil engineering is to protect and enhance the safety, health and welfare of the public,” he said. “The need for civil engineers will continue with an expected growth rate of 18 percent.”

Byers was followed logically with a presentation on geotechnical engineering by Denard Burden. “This branch of civil engineering is concerned with the engineering behavior of natural materials found close to the surface of earth,” he said. “And it includes the application of soil and rock mechanics for design purposes.”

Architecture was presented by John Adams. “Architects create space,” said Adams. “They control the perception of a space and how people react to it through the use of lighting, color, ceiling height and texture.”

Structural Engineer Tara Paxton said that design of buildings is done from top down. “First the roof slab and beams, then columns, exterior walls and then the foundations,” she said, “taking into consideration the weight of a building and its contents, projected snow and wind loads, soil pressure on the basement walls and for us at MED, whatever force protection measures are applied.”

Kevin McLellan presented mechanical engineering, one of the oldest and broadest engineering disciplines. “Mechanical Engineering is an engineering discipline that was developed from the application of principles from physics and materials science,” he said. “According to the American Heritage Dictionary, it is the branch of engineering that encompasses the generation and application of heat and mechanical power in the design, production, and use of machines and tools. The short definition is, “we transform and transfer energy’.”

Next up was Fire Protection Engineer Rich Dipert. “Society values engineers because they solve the world’s problems,” he said. “And fire protection engineers provide a world safer from the tragic effects of fire and explosion.”

According to Electrical Engineer Wil Wright, “Most electrical engineering projects are completed in conjunction with at least one other discipline including mechanical, structural, civil, architectural and environmental.”

Project Manager Zenovia Wilcox tied it all together for the students: “You have now heard briefings from various disciplines. Whether it is a construction project or an assignment you receive in school, team work is critical to ensuring success of any project,” she said.

“A project delivery team refers to the multi-disciplined team where all members are kept informed of changes and have opportunities to participate in the resolution.”

The Blue Ridge Chapter of the Society of American Military Engineers provided pizza for lunch so the students could proceed uninterrupted with their agenda. A guest speaker, Associate Professor Bradley Striebig from James Madison University’s School of Engineering, presented a slide show on how students could prepare themselves for college.

McLellan returned to introduce the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, called LEED, green building certification program and rating system. Then the students were divided into groups. “The basic idea of the exercise,” McLellan said, “was for the students to think about some environmentally friendly designs that could be implemented at their schools. Some of their ideas included waterless urinals, increased natural lighting, solar panels, graywater (i.e., from sinks and dishwashers) re-use, and designated parking for fuel efficient vehicles.”

Their ideas were evaluated and scored based on standard LEED criteria. “Martinsburg High School won the competition,” said McLellan.

During the conclusion and wrap up, Vogler reinforced the importance of engineering contributions to society by showing a slide and reading its content aloud: “If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read it in English, thank a Soldier. For everything else, thank an engineer.”

MED has conducted the event, originally inspired by the National Engineer Week, for about 10 years. It continues to be well-received by both students and counselors.