The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Middle East District hosted a Day with an Engineer for local high school students April 29 at the Middle East District headquarters in Winchester, Va.
Day with an Engineer allowed students considering careers in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics to hear from professionals and learn more about these fields.
“Since the Corps of Engineers is one of the largest STEM employers in the area, it is important for us to be out front inspiring students to pursue careers in STEM,” said Middle East District structural engineer Bob Thomas, who helped organize the event.
Approximately 20 students from three area high schools, Millbrook, Handley, and Clarke County, attended the event.
The day began with a welcome by Col. Vincent Quarles. Quarles spoke about his experience in engineering and selected a student from each school to help solve a sample engineering problem. The students then received a brief overview of the Middle East District and heard from engineers from multiple disciplines including civil, geotechnical, structural, mechanical, fire protection and electrical engineering. Professionals in construction, project management and architecture also spoke to the students.
“This event is likely one of the few opportunities these high school students will have to be exposed to professionals in multiple engineering disciplines,” Thomas said. “Knowing the many different areas of engineering might inspire someone to pursue an engineering profession they may not have been familiar with previously.”
During lunch, a representative from the Virginia Tech School of Engineering spoke to the students. Following that, participants were tasked with designing and building a structure out of toothpicks and gumdrops.
“One of the goals of this activity was to show students that engineering, like many other professions, takes not only intellect, but also communication and personal skills,” Thomas said.
To conclude the event, students had an opportunity to ask questions to professionals in the engineering discipline that most interested them.
“The event was a great success,” Alan Zytowski, chief of engineering and construction division. “I think the students learned a lot by getting a short taste of what the Corps of Engineers is, what we do here at the Middle East District, and what it is like to do our work.”