Volunteers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Transatlantic Division visited with students at Winchester’s STARBASE Academy Nov. 10.
STARBASE is a Department of Defense program where students are immersed in hands-on science, technology, engineering and math activities for a week. Hundreds of students from Winchester and surrounding counties attend the program each year and local professionals are invited to spend a few hours sharing their passion for their work.
Margaret Jones, the Transatlantic Division’s Chief, Military Integration Division, and Elizabeth Yo, an architect with the Middle East District, gave a presentation about engineering to 5th grade students, then introduced a hands-on activity.
Jones, who considered being a teacher before she became a mechanical engineer, gave the oral presentation. She focused on the different types of engineering and explained that, because engineers solve problems, they may not find the right answer on their first try. Sometimes they may have to try many times before they get it right and sometimes they may need to work as a team.
“There are times in life when you can work on your own,” she told the students. “And there are times when you’ll have to work together. That’s when your teamwork becomes important.”
Yo introduced the hands-on activity, building popsicle stick bridges and explained why she chose to become an architect.
“I love what I do because it allows me to use my math and science skills as well as my artistic side,” she said.
Then she explained that students were to use 100 popsicles sticks and a hot glue gun to design and build a weight-bearing bridge that would be tested with weights at the end of the exercise. Students, working in 4-person teams, had 15 minutes to plan and design their bridges and an hour for building.
The same team visited STARBASE in July, and both were eager to repeat the activity.
“I just love kids,” Jones said. “I had to choose between becoming a teacher and becoming an engineer and I chose engineering. But I still love teaching.”
Jones said she homeschooled two of her own children until they reached high school age.
“I think it opened the kids’ perspective, hearing the experiences of somebody who does this for a living,” Jones said. “Not only was I able to pass on a little of my love for engineering, but I was able to share the importance of teamwork, creativity and learning from your mistakes.”