By Earl Bittner, NAVFAC Southeast Public Affairs Office
Jacksonville, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast civilians and military personnel participated in the Jacksonville District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) 2015 Engineering Career Day Feb. 27 in Jacksonville, Florida.
More than 100 high school students, parents and teachers from 11 public and private schools in northeast Florida attended the event and project competition. The day-long event has been co-sponsored by the Jacksonville District Corps of Engineers with the Society of American Engineers (SAME) for the past 13 years. The event is one of the major events of Northeast Florida Engineers Week held every year in February.
"It was amazing to watch the creativity and ingenuity of these young folks," said NAVFAC Southeast Chief Engineer and Capital Improvements Business Line Coordinator Jack McCarthy, one of eight judges for the competition. "For me, judging the competition and watching the kids creativity is just plain fun."
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 focus on these areas of study. 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.
Math and engineering student teams from local high schools were provided a take home problem by the USACE Engineering Career Day Committee. The students were charged with coming up with methods to remove various unwanted debris items that collect in or near the intake channel of a pumping station serving a vital flood protection roll, explained McCarthy.
McCarthy explained one of the assignments describing how the use of pumping stations to move fluids from one location to another has proven useful throughout history. From flood control efforts to water supply, the use of pumping stations has made the work easier and more efficient. However, the pumping station would not be able to move the fluids if the pump's suction intake was clogged with debris. When debris clogs the intake channel it reduces the effectiveness of the pumps and could possibly damage pump components. It is in the best interest of the engineering team to combat this accumulation of debris in the intake channel by lifting it from the water for deposit in a designated bin or area for later proper disposal. Removing the debris facilitates the flow of water to the pump and efficiency of the pump in moving the flood waters to impoundments for later re-use by the community.
Each team's mission was to explore the sometimes messy but necessary task of debris removal. The teams applied creativity, imagination and sound engineering to develop a debris removal machine capable of removing simulated debris from a reservoir and depositing the debris in a separate container. The simulated debris was in various shapes and sizes of breakfast cereal. The debris removal machine was limited only by the imagination of the students and certain design constraints such as the prohibition of the use of explosives, flammable materials or hazardous material propellants, said McCarthy.
For this project, simulated debris (Malt-O-Meal Berry Colossal Crunch cereal) was supplied to each team during the event. The reservoir was positioned for positive debris contact with the trash rake via gravity feed. The debris supply reservoir was filled with four inches of debris. Team members were allowed to assist the flow of material toward the rake by using a supplied three ring binder to move simulated debris toward the rake to maintain the four inch level. There was no water (or milk) used in the reservoir.
"Each team had five minutes to move as much debris from the reservoir to the receiving container as possible," said McCarthy. After the allotted time the machine was powered down and removed from the reservoir. Any simulated debris not in the receiving container or still in the machine did not count towards the team's quantity of removed debris. Besides functionality, the machines were also judged on creativity, workmanship, and soundness of design. Aesthetics was also a factor used in the scoring."
The surprise problem required students to design a structure with provided materials that would support a roadway for a car to travel and be accelerated to leave the structure and travel across a horizontal surface.
NAVFAC Southeast also set up an informational display manned by Lt. Stephen Baker, Public Works Department Naval Station Mayport construction manager, and Lt. j.g. Tapeka Pringle, Public Works Department Naval Station Mayport Water commodity manager.
"Students stopped by the booth regularly throughout the day to ask a variety of questions ranging from wanting to work for NAVFAC as well as working for the Navy, the Civil Engineer Corp," said Baker. "This was a great opportunity for us to interact with the students and share our education and career path with them to show what the future has to hold for them."
"Overall, it was a great day for engineering and to witness the talented youth of our local high schools," said McCarthy.