By USACE Public AffairsFebruary 21, 2018
The threat of wintry precipitation on Saturday didn't keep thousands of kids and parents from participating in the 26th Discover Engineering Family Day at the National Building Museum in Washington, District of Columbia.
Engineers of all types shared their love of the engineering process and profession, and introduced children to the wonders of engineering.
For the fifth year in a row, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operated an exhibit at Discover Engineering Family Day. This year's exhibit included the ability to build structures with Core-Loc(s), an opportunity to learn about the dynamics of river flow at the river model, and an opportunity to (virtually) manage dams on a river to maintain balance among many water users.
"I love participating in Discover Engineering Family Day. It's a blast," said Sheri Moore, USACE lead planner for National Engineer Week Activities.
"We never know exactly what to expect from the children who come to our booth. Some are timid, others dive right in, and some are really thoughtful about what's happening. The best part is getting them each to engage in her or his own way. It's rewarding," she added.
Children, ages 4-12 years old, entered the exhibit at the Core-Loc station, learning to use them as Legos to build structures that could withstand external forces. Then they moved to the river model where they placed obstacles in a flowing stream of water to see how the water and sediment adapted to the obstacles. Finally, what child can resist a giant video game? In front of a large computer monitor, they managed a system of reservoirs designed to support flood control, navigation, hydropower, irrigation, water supply, recreation, fish and wildlife, and water quality.
"I feel the approach we took this year in creating an engineering experience for the whole family perfectly suited the concept of the event, as well as the USACE theme of 'Building A Strong STEM Future'," said Tracy Leeser, the lead planner for USACE participation in the event. "The USACE booth featured three activities designed to engage children in the kinds of engineering we do in meaningful ways. Our volunteers focused on providing individual attention on the children."
"The kids that came through the game were great. Siblings often competed against each other to see who could get a better score, and parents were delighted to find that their kids could continue to play the game online at home (http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Missions/Dam-and-Lake-Projects/Missouri-River-Dams/Basin-Balancer/)," said Mike Whetston, a USACE public affairs specialist. "Ultimately though, I think every kid walked away having learned something about the challenges of managing a water basin."
A group of USACE volunteers operated the exhibit, taking time out of their holiday weekend to blend fun with learning and to build the foundation for the future of the engineering profession. "For me, I find my motivation in that I never know how a few minutes learning about how we live with a river can inspire a child for the future," Moore said. "You just never know what's going to stick, but we do know that by participating, the Corps is a part of forming the next generation of engineers and scientists, which is certainly worthwhile!"
Leeser agreed. "For the parents, there was an educational poster at each activity describing its background and application in the real world," Lesser said. "It was exciting to see the concentration on the children's faces as they tried out our activities and then their smiles as they completed them. Their energy was contagious!"
Discover Engineering Family Day is one of many events USACE participates in as part of its support to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education. Throughout the year, engineers from USACE districts are in classrooms introducing engineering concepts to students and teachers, using hands-on projects to connect them to real-world careers in STEM. USACE is the largest employer of female STEM professionals in the U.S. Government.
The Discover Engineering Family Day event kick started National Engineer Week activities in the D.C. area. The National Society of professional Engineers founded Engineer Week in 1951 to highlight the engineering all around us. It is celebrated the week surrounding Feb. 22, the birthday of President George Washington.