Jon Williams, President and CEO of W&A Engineering, volunteered to give a STEM presentation at Rocky Branch Elementary in Oconee County. STEM is a new curriculum that involves teaching Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math in a hands on way that allows students to apply their learning to real life scenarios and encourages higher level thinking. Mr. Williams is very excited about the STEM program being implemented in schools, and the impact it may have on the engineering field in the future.
Similar to STEM learning is the STEAM approach, which also incorporates the creative arts into the learning experience. W&A also supports STEAM educational efforts, and recently spoke with students in Oconee County– and even challenged them with a tower building contest!
Showcasing STEM in the Workplace
The presentation gave students insight into what W&A Engineering does and how the community benefits from the work done by the firm. Within the presentation, Mr. Williams showed the students how each of the STEM disciplines is used by W&A Engineering’ employees on a daily basis. He emphasized not only the importance of mastering the content, but also developing strong problem solving and teamwork skills.
The students were very engaged throughout the presentation, asking wonderful questions to further their comprehension of the engineering field. Mr. Williams helped deepen the students’ understanding by answering follow up questions such as, “What is the point of surveying?”, “How do you know what materials to use to keep water contained in a pool?”, and — one of our favorite questions of the day — “Do you enjoy your job?”
Showcasing Engineering with “The Spaghetti Challenge”
After the presentation, Mr. Williams led the students in a hands on activity called “The Spaghetti Challenge.” The students were put into teams and given 20 sticks of spaghetti, 1 yard of string, 1 yard of tape, and 1 large marshmallow. The directions for the activity were to build the tallest structure possible that would support the weight of the marshmallow. After 18 minutes, the group with the tallest structure would be declared the winners. Mr. Williams added to the students’ excitement and determination by offering $5 Dunkin Donuts gift-cards to the members of the winning team.
It was fascinating to see the different thought processes each group implemented, some focusing first on the base of their structures and others going immediately to the height. The students worked well together exchanging ideas and allowing trial and error to guide some of their building methods.
Beyond Building, Critical Thinking
After the winning team was congratulated and given their prize, Mr. Williams encouraged more critical thinking by asking the students follow up questions. The students were asked to think about and discuss the following: “If your structure fell, what do you think you could have done differently to improve your results?” and “If you could have had more of 1 of the materials, what material do you think would have been the most helpful?”
At the end of the day, everyone was a winner. Students learned about potential career options, the role engineers play in society, how their current studies can be applied to the real world, and the importance of communication and team work. W&A Engineering was proud to take part in furthering students’ understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.