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Posted 3/6/2013

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By Jean Pavlov

More than 120 high school students, parents and teachers from nine northeast Florida schools attended the 10th annual Engineering Career Day event and project competition Friday, Feb. 22.  The day-long event was co-sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District and the Society of American Engineers (SAME) Jacksonville Post. 

“Welcome…It’s truly an honor to see so many people attend this event today to learn about engineering and the tremendous contribution engineers make to our society and nation,” said Col. Alan Dodd, district commander.  

“This day also helps us to support the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education Coalition program for teachers and students. STEM represents all sectors of the technological workforce – from knowledge workers, to educators, to scientists, engineers and technicians,” said Dodd.

STEM is a national and regional effort to better prepare the workforce of tomorrow by encouraging today’s students to engage in studies, events and careers involving science, technology, engineering and math. 

The Engineering Career Day event invites student teams to compete in building and entering a take home project, completing a surprise project assigned the day of the event and a trivia challenge. Team 2 from Bishop Kenny, Thunder Buddies, was the overall winner of the competition. 

The 2013 take home project was from the United States Military Academy, the 12th Annual West Point Bridge Design Contest. The purpose of the Internet-based competition is to provide middle and high school students with an engaging introduction to engineering.  Students were required to build a bridge using a 16-ounce box of spaghetti and five hot glue sticks, which would then be judged based upon the weight the bridge would hold before collapsing.

According to the judges, the winning team’s arch bridge had an “extremely impressive” 47.6 to 1 strength-to-weight ratio. The bridge, which weighed 2.64 ounces, held 7.86 pounds before catastrophic failure.  It also took first place in the aesthetics judging.  Members of the Thunder Buddies were Peter House, Stephen Baltz, Michael Barr and Zach McNulty. They unanimously attributed their success to their physics teacher, Vicki Schmitt.

Yulee High School’s all-girl Team 2, The Plastics, included Savannah Shelton, Rebecca Wright and Chelsea Decowski. Their bridge was unique, as they had meticulously put together every single piece of spaghetti to look like tiny little boards on a bridge, all precisely and neatly cut.

“Our bridge withheld 22.7 pounds of sand,” said Shelton. “That’s the most any of the groups has held so far!”  The Plastics’ celebration was short-lived, as Providence High shot past them with a 23.36-pound win, placing second in the category and bumping The Plastics to third place.
Laureen Borochaner, chief of the Engineering Division and a former bridge engineer, said this year’s take home project was close to her heart.  She was most impressed with the overwhelming response of the local schools. 

“We had more schools wanting to participate than we could accept,” she said.  “So definitely it’s getting more and more popular each year.”  

Eric Bush, chief of the Planning and Policy Division, was the guest speaker for the event. He spoke about the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.   

Victor Wilhelm developed this year’s surprise project. He distributed to the students zip-lock packages of materials to build a bunker for a toy soldier, which would have to be designed to hold up to 100 pounds without collapsing on the soldier. 

“As President Barack Obama said, 'Today, more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation. It's time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and work to restore America's place as the world leader in science and technology,'” said Dodd.

Overall Winners
1st Place:  Bishop Kenny (Team 2)
2nd Place:  Providence High (Team 1) 
3rd Place:  Christ’s Church Academy (Team 1)

Take Home Project
1st Place: Bishop Kenny (Team 2)
2nd Place: Providence High (Team 1) 
3rd Place: Yulee High (Team 2)

Surprise Project
1st Place: Christ’s Church Academy (Team 1)
2nd Place: Bishop Kenny (Team 2)  
3rd Place: Fernandina Beach High School (Team 2) 

Bishop Kenny High School competition comprehensive everglades restoration plan corps education engineering Engineering career day Florida jacksonville mathematics science STEM students techology U.S. Army Corps of Engineers