A Promising Peek at the Dreams of Tomorrow’s Professionals

Each November, in celebration of American Education Week, a central Florida school district bring business and civic leaders into the classrooms to interact with students about academics, careers and their future. This year, we all volunteered to speak to elementary and middle school students about life as an engineer, and how our work impacts their community.

Alex Preisser – Second Grade, Environmental Stewardship

As an environmental scientist, I had the chance to talk to second-graders about environmental stewardship, one of the most impactful parts of the engineering industry. To help them understand the dynamic state of Florida, I mapped their school, the diverse ecosystems, and natural resources surrounding it using GIS tools. Historic aerials helped them understand how much our environment evolved year after year. We also talked about the different types of animals that live in certain habitats around the state, including the gopher tortoise. I showed them pictures of how we gently dig the state-protected tortoises from their burrows, which can be up to 25 feet deep.

Justin Fries – Third Grade, an Earthquake-Proof Tower of Cups

How does one take the highly involved process of structural engineering and apply it to a third-grade class? Easy, you use cups. I divided the students into teams that were each given 20 Solo cups. Their job was to build the tallest and most structurally sound plastic tower. After a couple of failed attempts to build the highest tower by simply stacking the cups on top of one another, I challenged them to make it more structurally stable: "Build a base that bears the tower's weight." With a stronger base and even taller towers, the students then simulated an earthquake. "How," you ask? By jumping up and down, of course! This helped us see which type of tower was the strongest of all.

Chris Grammier – Sixth Grade, Mathematics and Water Resources

I had the chance to meet with a sixth-grade mathematics class. In an effort to make what we do in the field relevant to what they do in the classroom, I explained how math, made up of numbers and symbols, is not only an integral language of water resources engineering, but of the entire world around us. Math helps us avoid costly mistakes in the design phase, and when that involves our water supply, a good design means clean drinking water. To my delight, the students were particularly engaged with the municipal water cycle process. Plenty of eyes went wide when I drew out the process and the kids realized that all the water we use is recycled.

Ricardo Montalvo – Seventh Grade, Engineering Fire Safety

I walked into a reading class of 15 students and not a single one had a strong grasp on what engineering truly was. To make what we do applicable to them, I explained the relationship between how much water is available to the school for firefighting. We talked about water pressure, and the type of fire flow demand that would be needed to fight that fire. At one point, I pointed to the classroom sink and asked if anybody knew where the water goes after going down the drain. One student knew where the water was collected, but didn't know that it could potentially become reclaimed water, possibly used in firefighting. At the end of the session, a number of the students were genuinely engaged. Who knows, those kids may have just realized that they're actually engineers.

Lizette Martinez – Eighth Grade, Preparing for Tomorrow

Eighth-grade is one of the most incredible groups to talk to. The world as they know it is expanding and they're just figuring out what truly interests them. With such an impressionable group, my job that day wasn't as a roadway design engineer, but as a motivator, explaining the importance of figuring out what they love now so that they can realize their dreams tomorrow.

Many of the students came from families that never attended college, so I had the chance to tell them my story as the first of my family to graduate from college. I drove home the importance of good grades as a tangible way of broadening tomorrow's opportunities. We also discussed the surplus of challenging opportunities the transportation engineering field has to offer, no matter which educational path one takes. To that end, there were an overwhelming number of questions on how they could apply their own unique skills to the field of civil engineering, a promising peek at the dreams of tomorrow's professionals.

  • Chris Grammier
    Chris Grammier
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