Future Engineers (photos)

00:00 AM March 12, 2018

The acronym S.T.E.M. is used a lot in today's education field.  The four topics, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math have been given a lot of emphasis as businesses are trying to generate interest among students to pursue careers in related fields.


Ann Cooper's fifth grade class at Tampico Elementary School got some first hand experience with engineering on Monday from some people who know just a bit about the topic.  Robert Barton, Chris Conderman, and Tyler Gould, who are all Civil Engineers. for the Illinois Department of Transportation, visited the class to talk bridge building.


The visit was set up on a chance conversation between Cooper and Faith Duncan, a friend at her church, who just happens to work at the IDOT office in Dixon, Il.  The three engineers gave a brief presentation on their work and then challenged the students to create a bridge out of marshmallows. toothpicks, and spaghetti.


Fun ensued as the student broke into small groups and began the construction process.  "We gave them a goal of spanning two textbooks," said Tyler Gould.  The engineers circulated the room adding input as the bridges began to take shape.


"It was fun," said 5th grader Irelynd Henson.  "It was cool trying to figure it out and how to fix it when it started leaning." "We started it and then changed our idea," she added.  Her structure, built with her partner Amen Barron, became a double-decker bridge after they weren't satisfied with their initial effort.

Irelynd Henson and Amen Barron begin construction
on their bridge after a presentation by three
IDOT Civil Engineers.


Logan Johnson had a bit of a different take on the experience.  " This was hard to do, our bridge was horrible," he said smiling.  "I learned that I don't make very good bridges, it is barley standing."


The visit was a good distraction for the students, said Cooper as they are preparing to begin the standards based PARCC test.  it was also an opportunity to get the kids a taste of engineering as it can be a difficult topic to incorporate into the curriculum.   


"I hope my students were given a glimpse into what could be a possibility for a future career," said Cooper.  The men talked about not enjoying math in fifth-grade but learning to appreciate it later. I think this gave some of my students hope because fifth-grade math is difficult and many don't enjoy it."


Cooper also explained that is was a good chance for her students to work on "thinking outside the box", which can be a difficult concept to learn. The exercise also helped the students with their problem-solving skills. "Giving them an opportunity to try to solve problems in a non-threatening way is important, especially for those who are afraid to fail," added Cooper.



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