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Posted 2/26/2013

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By James Campbell
Huntsville Center

HUNTSVILLE, Ala -- The U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville celebrated National Engineers Week by meeting with more than 300 juniors and seniors at J.O. Johnson High School in north Huntsville Feb. 21.

"We are here to encourage each of you to consider a career in science, technology, engineering or math," said Col Robert Ruch, Huntsville Center commander.

"It's important for people like me and the Corps of Engineers to come and talk to students like you," Ruch said. "You are the future of organizations like ours."

National Engineer Week is observed by engineering community during the third week of February to call attention to engineer's contributions to society, and the Center used the opportunity to reinforce their Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, program with a local high school.

After the students listened to four short speeches from Center employees, each explaining how they got in to their respective technical fields, their attention quickly turned to a challenge.

Ten teams of students were each given two large bags of marshmallows, one box of dry spaghetti noodles and 15 minutes to build a tower with the tallest claiming first place.

After the initial confusion of the marshmallow challenge passed, students began discuss the task, and perhaps without realizing it, discuss basic engineering principles like design and evaluation or contemplating the breaking point of the materials they were given.

Mentors from the Center let the students work the problems out on their own for the most part, but each offered offer little bits of advice to the teams, often reinforcing good ideas the students came up with while designing and quickly building towers out of materials you would normally toast over a fire or boil in a pot of water.

Daveon Moore an 18 year old senior at the school said he was excited about having an opportunity to see and hear about some of the various technical and engineering fields at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"There is so much information to take in today," he said. "One of the speakers is in the Army, and becoming an Army engineer is actually one of my career choices -- I can be an Army commander and engineer like him one day if I want," he said. "The speakers helped me see that there a many engineering options that I haven't thought of yet."

After the towers were built and measured, each student was given certificates and had a chance to ask questions.

"Many of our students say they want to become engineers but don't know about the different types of engineers or what an engineer does," said Lakeeta Perkins, science teacher and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program coordinator at Johnson High School. She said having the group from the Center there to share their experience was a good way to help students make informed decisions about their future.

engineer week huntsville center mentoring students