More than 180 7th grade students at Ferguson Middle School in Missouri recently experienced what it was like to be an “Engineer for a Day”, thanks to employee volunteers from Verizon. To celebrate National Engineers Week (Feb. 22 – 28), the students constructed cell towers, kicked around an Adidas miCoach Smart Ball and got hands-on experience with some of the latest Verizon Wireless devices.
Kevin Buie, Midwest-area financial planning manager based in the St. Louis area, is an engineering graduate and was the event’s leader. He says the inspiration to bring this initiative to Ferguson came from his own pursuit of a career in engineering, which he wished to share with young people in his community – some hearing about career options in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for the first time.
“We can’t grow our business without investing in the communities in which we live and work," said Buie. “We came to Ferguson Middle School as part of National Engineers Week for a STEM initiative because we have passion for our community and passion for our youth.”
Research has shown that student interest and proficiency in STEM have been stagnant in the United States, especially among women and minorities, even though a significant 80% of all jobs over the next decade will require STEM skills.
Student engineers built cell tower replicas with marshmallows and cake pop sticks during National Engineers Week.
These “Engineers for a Day” learned what it would be like to study and have a career in the high-demand fields of STEM. Upon arriving into the school gymnasium, students were split into two groups, team “foundation” and team “potential.” One group got to discover the latest in mobile technology as Verizon employees showed students how to use these devices to help themselves in school and their everyday lives. The other group went to the opposite side of the gym to build cell tower replicas using marshmallows and cake pop sticks as construction material. After 30 minutes, the groups switched places so everyone could try both activities.
The 7th grade students showed an immense amount of enthusiasm and energy at all the stations. The Verizon employees were excited to see what the kids would build with the marshmallows and sticks. The creativity the Ferguson Middle School students showed while “building cell towers” exceeded the ideas and expectations of the Verizon employees after they themselves partook in the activity in the office the prior week. The Verizon team was impressed with the level of excitement and ingenuity the kids showed during National Engineers Week.
Bertarius Peterson, a volunteer at the event, said, "Volunteering at the Ferguson Middle School helped me to further realize that the children are the future. We must invest in that future to ensure the world is a better place through STEM. Investing means giving our money and our time for a brighter future."
We were also able to bring a VGo for the students to take turns controlling. The VGo is a connected device with a camera for the controlling user to see what the VGo sees, as well as a display of themselves for the people around the VGo to see. It provides real time interaction for students unable to attend school. The students had a blast controlling it, sending it around the gymnasium to interact and surprise their fellow students. For most, including the employees, this is the first, and maybe only, time they will have to interact with the VGo.
Buie agrees with the Verizon Foundation mission of using technology to address some of the most pressing social problems in education and healthcare affecting underserved communities.
“I’m really proud of being able to lead a program that put the most advanced technology into the hands of the people who need it the most – our youth and future engineers,” he said.
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