By David S. Kolarik
Kansas City District Public Affairs Office
The “Tomorrow’s Engineers” program seeks to build relationships between U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District employees and underrepresented middle and high school students to encourage an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses and the pursuit of engineering and science career fields. The Kansas City District’s Tomorrow’s Engineers program directly supports the USACE STEM initiative to partner with others to strengthen STEM-related programs and motivate students to seek STEM-related occupations.
"We all realize the critical role that science, technology, engineering and mathematics education plays in enabling the U.S. to remain the economic and technological leaders of the global marketplace and enabling the Department of Defense and Army in the security of our nation," said Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, Commanding General and Chief of Engineers. "It is good to see that districts, divisions, labs and other U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' organizations are committed to teaming with others to strengthen STEM-related programs that inspire current and future generations of young people to pursue careers in STEM fields."
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that STEM jobs will continue to grow faster than other occupations (17 percent between 2008-2018 compared to just 9.85 percent for non-STEM jobs) yet minorities and women are still underrepresented in STEM fields. According to the National Science Foundation, women make up 46 percent of the total workforce but hold only 24 percent of jobs in technical or STEM fields. African-Americans and Latinos each comprise 13 percent of the total workforce and only three percent of the technical workforce.
Kansas City District employees located at the Fort Leonard Wood Resident Office are a prime example of executing the USACE STEM initiative as they have demonstrated on numerous occasions and most recently at the Waynesville, Mo., school district just beyond the gates of Fort Leonard Wood.
“We’re very fortunate to have the Corps and other various resources from Fort Leonard Wood to bring real life experience to the students in the classroom,” said Kymberly McCall, STEM project director for the Waynesville School District. “We’re excited that, with the help of the Corps, we received a $2.5 million Department of Defense Educational Activities Grant that will fund this three-year problem and project based learning program for the district.”
The Fort Leonard Wood Project Office teamed up with Waynesville School officials and conducted numerous 45 minute educational presentations to both elementary and high school students highlighting the discipline of engineering and further expounding on the many different engineering fields they can explore.
“The goal is to awaken the natural curiosity of the young mind and open the windows for them to see it from the eyes of Corps employees,” said Eric A. Arndt, Fort Leonard Wood area engineer.
More than 200 students attended the engineering focused presentations and were later encouraged to ask questions to Kansas City District subject matter experts in a variety of different engineering fields. The students later completed surveys of which approximately 75 percent reported being very interested in the STEM program or indicated that they had a positive educational experience from the presentations.
“We’re excited that we can provide a venue for the students to see, learn and grow.” said Sandra J. Wolfe, a civil engineering technician with the Fort Leonard Wood Resident Office.
The Tomorrow’s Engineers program is proving to be a huge success, so much that the FLW Project Office staff has been asked to provide a presentation to the teachers at Waynesville High School to better inform them what an engineer is and what it takes from an educational perspective to meet the post-secondary education requirements for advanced studies in the engineering field.
“The program is quite successful as we’ve been asked to duplicate what we’re doing in Waynesville for eight additional surrounding school districts.” said James H. Cheney, a project engineer and construction representative at the FLW office. “We’re currently in the crawl-to-walk mode but we’re quickly gaining momentum.”
“We’re teaching tomorrow’s engineers today, that’s what we’re trying to do,” Cheney added.