Here at PNA, we strive to prepare our students for their future world. The world they are growing up in is vastly different than the one you or I grew up in and this is why PNA ensures that we are teaching them the skills that they need to be successful in their world. That is why when approached to help celebrate National Engineer Week with the United States Army Corps of Engineers Alaska District we jumped at the opportunity.
In 1951 the National Society of Professional Engineers began “National Engineers Week.” This week was started to acknowledge the contributions of engineers advancing this incredible Nation. This celebration has since grown to also incorporate science, technology and mathematics, and emphasize the importance of STEM to the next generation. This week is intended to show how engineers make a difference to the world and boost an awareness of our need for engineers. The yearly observance of Engineers Week also helps boost interest in engineering fields as well as helps to ensure that there will be a diverse future in engineering. To that end, volunteers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Alaska District were at PNA throughout the week to inspire some students to continue to explore the possibilities of STEM.
According to the US Department of Commerce, STEM jobs are growing at a rate of 24% while other occupations are hovering around 4% . What does this mean for our growing students and why is it happening? When taking a wide look at our world, it seems obvious that science is all around us, technology seems to be creeping into every facet of our lives, engineering can be seen while driving around your neighborhood and city on the highways, bridges, and building, and math is part of daily life. This is why it is so important that PNA infuses STEM projects into the learning of our students. We place a focus on STEM learning and STEM projects to help ready our classes for what their future might hold.
We were fortunate to have engineers come to our class and teach us some real-world STEM. Students learned all the many specialities within engineering, how engineering is part of their daily life, different types of bridges, bridge structure and the role STEM plays in all of this. They were tasked to design a bridge out of toothpicks and mini marshmallows. The challenge was that their bridge would have to hold a “live load” of a matchbox car and span a length of a standard elementary dictionary. Students learned how to plan and bring their bridge design to life. Their bridges were tested and evaluated. Some realized that adjustments needed to be made while others, upon their success, went back to challenge themselves to see if they could make it stronger, bigger, or taller. Students thoroughly enjoyed taking the time to see how their ideas could be made concrete.
The future of engineering is bright. Climate change, sustainable energy, and space exploration will be just a few of the challenges this young generation will tackle. So, this week we sparked some interest, and in the minds of our students start building the bridges to our future.