MUSCATINE, Iowa–At 14-years-old, starting a career feels eons away. However, in just a few short years, students will graduate from high school and take the next steps in the educational journey, gaining skills and knowledge that will serve them in whatever they choose to pursue. To help a group of Susan Clark Junior High School eighth grade students who participated in Project Lead the Way get excited about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and see a variety of careers in action, Stanley Consultants invited them to spend the day participating in a bridge building contest May 17.
Earlier in the year, when Stanley Consultants held an engineering week event for high school robotics students at their training location, a group of junior high school students attended and enjoyed participating in the challenge very much. Wanting to expand the opportunity to more students, Manager of Organizational Effectiveness Chris Hoffman worked with Project Lead the Way teachers Casey Edkin and Laurie Schroeder to organize a larger event. Edkin and Schroeder sent a Google form to the eighth grade students they thought would have the most interest in such a field trip and, with the blessing of Principal Chris Nienhaus and Assistant Principal Jennifer Fridley, took them to Stanley Consultant’s headquarters.
Students started their day by exploring different materials they could build their bridges out of, with the goal of building the bridge that could hold the most weight using the least expensive resources available in the project’s “shop.” By testing different materials even before they started building their bridges, students could start planning for their final project and use trial and error to determine what items they thought would work well and which they should avoid. Hoffman explained, “the biggest things I hope they take away are planning–making a plan, and the fail fast concept.”
At midday, the students had an opportunity to lunch and learn, eating Avenue Subs and hearing from members of Stanley Consultants in different positions, such as engineers, drafters, and human resources professionals about how they found their way to their careers and what they do for a living. Edkin found this experience valuable as it got students, “out and having real-world experiences.”
Students appreciated the chance to meet different professionals and learn about their careers as well. “I’ve enjoyed all the new experiences and meeting all the new people,” shared Kaden Miller.
“I’ve enjoyed everything they’ve told us so far, and they’re so nice,” added Noel Torres.
After lunch, students returned to work on their bridges with their partners–building, testing, and adjusting their final designs. Groups showed great creativity, and students welcomed the chance to get out of the classroom and try something new. Student Bryan Cabrera shared he most liked, “just building and working as a team to know how we’ll build the bridges.”
Anisten Martin echoed his thoughts, sharing she had fun with, “the freedom of getting to design it yourself.”
At the end of the day, each group tested their bridge with a force gauge to see who would win. Claire Schumaker and Zerick Last came in first place.
A positive experience for all involved, Stanley Consultants wants to host additional events in the future, and teachers welcome the partnership. “The community has been so good to us!” Schroeder beamed.