By Earl Bittner, NAVFAC Southeast Public Affairs
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast civilians and military personnel participated in the Jacksonville District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) 2016 Engineering Career Day Feb. 26 in Jacksonville.
"Seeing the students of our local area motivated to succeed, as well as their spontaneous competitive solutions was most impressive," said Lt. Rhett Johnson, NAVFAC Southeast architect.
As part of the culmination of National Engineers Week, which is always the last week in February, the Jacksonville District of the Army Corps of Engineers hosts an Engineering Career Day competition for local high schools and their math, science, and engineering interested students.
NAVFAC Southeast set up an informational display at the event where architects Johnson and Lt. Matthew Ward had the opportunity to speak with the students.
"When people generally think about the Navy, engineering is probably not the first thing that comes to mind," said Ward. "This event is a great venue to speak with students about the opportunities that NAVFAC offers for those who may be considering a career in an engineering related field."
More than 100 high school students, parents and teachers from 13 public and private schools in Northeast Florida (and Weiss School middle school children from West Palm Beach, Florida) attended the event and project competition. The daylong event has been co-sponsored by the Jacksonville District USACOE with the Society of American Engineers (SAME) for the past 14 years. The event is one of the major events of Northeast Florida Engineers Week held every year in February.
The 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 were provided a take home problem by the USACE Engineering Career Day Committee. The students were charged with constructing a bridge using only uncooked spaghetti and hot glue that was then tested to determine its strength to weight ratio -- the highest being named the winner.
The pasta bridges overall score was based 90 percent on the performance of the bridge (strength to weight ratio) whereby the score was computed by dividing the total load supported at failure (sand added to a bucket hanging from the bottom of the bridge until the bridge failed) by the weight of the bridge. The winning team's bridge weighed around 3 pounds and supported about 33 pounds of sand for a strength to weight ratio of 11.
Appearance of the bridge accounted for 10 percent and was based on neatness/cleanliness of construction, architectural creativity and overall appearance.
"This is the fourth year I've served as judge and these kids continue to amaze me with their ingenuity and innovation coming up with so many varied solutions to the same engineering problem," said Jack McCarthy, NAVFAC Southeast Chief Engineer and Capital Improvements Business Line Coordinator, one of the judges for the competition.
There was also a surprise problem that required students to design and construct a bridge out of an 8.5-by-11 inch sheet of paper that would span a chasm of 7.75 inches then load as many sightseers (pennies) onto the bridge until it failed. The highest number of 'sightseers' supported won. The overall winning Bishop Kenny High School team came in first in this competition, building a bridge that support 269 pennies or 'sightseers.'
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 future looks bright for these young folks," said McCarthy.