FED plays a role in STEM: Influencing future engineers
According to a Live Science article titled, What is STEM Education, STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines-science, technology, engineering and mathematics- in an interdisciplinary and applied approach.
The article goes on to state that STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications.
In a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education it was revealed that fewer students were focusing on STEM from the United States. It concluded only 16 percent of high school students were interested in these subject areas. As a result of the findings initiatives were launched to increase student’s engagement in those subjects.
As a result, the Obama administration announced the 2009 "Educate to Innovate" campaign to motivate and inspire students to excel in STEM subjects according to the Live Science article previously mentioned. The article goes on to state, this campaign also addresses the inadequate number of teachers skilled to educate in these subjects. The goal is to get American students from the middle of the pack in science and math to the top of the pack in the international arena.
Employees of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Far East District (FED) have in recent years taken on the challenge to help inspire and teach students in STEM related fields. In 2013 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Defense Schools Korea District signed an education partnership agreement at Seoul American High School. The partnership centered on support for the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics initiative.
Former employees of the FED, Patrick Beard and Bernie Thompson, spearheaded the first STEM event in the spring of 2013 at Humphreys Elementary School. Beard explained why the STEM program was important to add as a part of the FED and its surrounding community.
“Supporting STEM allows us to tell our story, and show kids what STEM does for them, and that it can be exciting,” said Beard.
Beard said that STEM is crucial to him as an engineer and that it helped inspire him to mentor kids into his area of expertise.
“I look at it a little bit from the selfish standpoint, because it makes me feel better as an engineer when the kids get quiet and act interested in what you're saying and get excited about what they get to do,” said Beard. “Supporting STEM is as much for me as it is for them.”
When Beard left FED to go back to Tulsa District, he passed the Humphreys event coordination to another employee who felt the same way about STEM. For the past four years, Jennifer Moore, Chief of FED’s Air Force Program & Business Process Branch, spearheaded a group of employees to facilitate STEM events at two Camp Humphreys elementary schools.
“For the elementary school students it is a fun break from their normal school day, and for us it’s great to see the diverse group of students of all grades K-5,” said Moore. “They may not grasp the technology or complicated science behind some of the stations, but they are so excited.”
The event is comprised of several interactive booths that cover several different engineering and science based concepts. Some of the stations include a rubber band helicopter, tension and structural strength testing, and connecting a circuit with a battery and light bulb.
“I think that the joy the kids get from seeing a light bulb light up by just touching it with their finger, a battery, and a wire is enough that maybe they’ll think about that when they go to middle or high school and maybe it will excite them enough to pursue the sciences when they grow up”, said Moore.
When Moore first became a part of volunteering and hosting STEM events, Camp Humphreys was undergoing a large amount of construction due to its transformation plan. As a result Moore felt it was a great opportunity to explain to the students within the community what the FED was doing on the base.
“In 2016 we held an event with the high school and middle school students, in which they had to compete to be selected for a shadowing day,” said Moore. “They were able to tour project sites during construction before the buildings were turned over to see what a day is like for a project engineer, or electrical engineer or what’s important to an architect.”
The STEM initiative coincides with the Pacific Ocean Division’s implementation plan to “prepare for tomorrow.” Its objective is to build ready and resilient teams through innovative talent management and leader development strategies.
“The school’s initiative for STEM and our goals align well,” said Moore. “By having USACE here working so closely, the schools have a group of qualified technical experts that want to volunteer their time to help push that mission.”
The administration and staff at the Camp Humphreys’ schools said the initiative and participation of the FED employees who host the STEM events is a welcome addition to their curriculum.
Rick Taylor, a Humphreys Central Elementary School teacher and STEM event coordinator, expressed his appreciation for the FED and its continued support to education.
“We have gotten AMAZING support of our STEM activities from Jennifer Moore and a team of volunteers from the Corps of Engineers over several years,” said Taylor. “The work her volunteers do every year gets rave reviews from our staff and the students have a great time participating in the hands-on activities that are presented.,” said Taylor.
According to Dr. Jeff McGee, Humphreys West Elementary School principal, these events add an element to the student’s education that they wouldn’t receive until much later.
“We don’t have an engineering program in elementary school,” said McGee. “So the great thing about STEM is that it provides a cohesive opportunity for students to build background knowledge, which they can build on when they get to middle and high school.”
McGee explained that the STEM program along with the school’s resources prepares the students for their future and continues to build upon already acquired knowledge.
“We have engineering in education kit Legos and robotics kits, which the children are always interested in using,” said McGee. “These types of learning activities are things that students remember and each year we’re able to layer on a new understanding and build a complex type of Lego or robot.”
“I want to thank the Corps for being such active participants in the lives of our children,” said McGee. “Bringing instructors in from outside the school adds value, further than what we can do internally. So thank you so much.”