MUSCATINE, Iowa—For HNI, inspiring the next generation of engineers comes by design. For the past three years, the company held an Engineering Week Challenge to introduce middle and high school students to what engineers do, all while engaging in an exciting competition.
HNI Member and Community Relations Business Partner Mandy Parchert explained that the Engineering Week Challenge allows students to test their skills against teams of HNI engineers. This year on Feb. 21, every team participating had to build a table. To add realistic constraints in, judges gave each table a score based on the cost of materials used, the amount of time it took to build, and its durability.
An enjoyable experience for all participants, Parchert shared that HNI values the opportunity to show students what a future in engineering could look like. “We love it, frankly,” she shared. “It’s a great opportunity to bring in the community, and it’s a great opportunity to bring awareness to engineering careers.”
Two teams of students from Muscatine High School and one team from West Middle School competed against 18 teams of HNI engineers. Though the students had to give it their all against such formidable opponents, they all relished the challenge. “It’s interesting to go against adults, and it’s interesting to see how we’ll do,” said Luna Haskins, a seventh grader at West Middle School.
“It’s a new experience,” added Gabe Sanchez, a high school industrial technology student. “I’ve never competed against engineers before, but Ethan and I have done speed challenges before,” he elaborated, referring to activities he and one of his teammates had done in class.
This year, HNI gave out two awards, best of show and overall winner. Though students put on a good showing, HNI Engineers ended up carrying the day, with the Allsteel Musketeers winning best of show for their attractive table and the tongue-in-cheek Team Name winning the overall category for their inexpensive yet surprisingly sturdy table.