By Earl Bittner, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southeast Public Affairs
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast civilians, contractors and military personnel participated in the Jacksonville District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) 2014 Engineering Career Day Feb. 21 in Jacksonville, Fla.
More than 150 high school students, parents and teachers from 13 schools in northeast Florida attended the event and project competition. The day-long event was the largest yet for the Jacksonville District Corps of Engineers which has been co-sponsoring this event with the Society of American Engineers (SAME) for the past 12 years. The event is one of the major events of Northeast Florida Engineers Week held every year in February.
"It's great to see so many kids engaged and interested in engineering. It was a thrill for me to be able to be a part of today's activities," said NAVFAC Southeast Commanding Officer and SAME Jacksonville Post President, Capt. Christopher Kiwus.
The competition promotes Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). STEM is a national education program focused on preparing the workforce of tomorrow by encouraging students today to study science, technology, engineering and math. The hope is the competition will inspire the scholars' efforts and energies toward careers in STEM fields in the future.
The Engineering Career Day event challenged four-person student teams to compete in building and entering a take home project, completing a surprise project assigned the day of the event and completing a trivia challenge.
"The judges consisted of leaders from NAVFAC Southeast, the USACE, CEOs of local architectural and engineering firms, and professors and department heads from the University of Florida and University of North Florida," said NAVFAC Southeast Capital Improvements Business Line Coordinator and Chief Engineer Jack McCarthy, one of eight judges for the competition.
"Four person teams made up of students from local high schools interested in engineering competed in several elements," said McCarthy. "The take home project encouraged the students to explore the age-old art of artillery."
The teams applied imagination and sound engineering to develop a launcher capable of propelling a standard, regulation ping pong ball at a target. Each team had 10 minutes to launch as many ping pong balls as they could at a target consisting of three different sized holes. Points were awarded for the number of balls that went through the holes. Aesthetics of the equipment was also a factor in determining the winner. The only constraint was that no explosive charges could be utilized or anything that would produce noxious gases. Other than that, the sky was the limit.
"These kids really used their imagination creating their artillery launchers," said McCarthy.
There was a surprise project that required the teams to build a bridge using an 8.5 by 11 inch piece of paper. The constructed bridge was required to span approximately 7.75 inches and the winner was chosen by noting which bridge was able to withstand supporting the greatest number of pennies before collapsing.
"It was amazing to see the creativity in this simple, yet challenging task. It was hard to believe the winning team loaded 255 pennies on their "bridge" before it collapsed," said McCarthy.
"Overall, it was a great day for engineering and to witness the talented youth of our local high schools," said McCarthy.
The following schools entered teams in the competition: Atlantic Coast High School, Bishop Kenny High School, Baldwin Middle Senior High School, Christ's Church Academy, Eagles View Academy, Englewood High School, Fernandina Beach High School, Fletcher High School, Frank H. Peterson Academies, Providence School, Providence Extension Program, Robert E. Lee High School and Yulee High School.
Eagle View Academy, Team A, was the overall winner of the competition. Eagle View Academy entered two teams this year. Both placed well in the competition resulting in Eagle View Academy taking home the James L. Garland Award for Engineering Excellence to display in their school all year.