Source: CNS Y-12 | Article | March 4, 2019

Oak Ridge High School students work together to assemble a tower out of toothpicks and marshmallows after being provided structurally sound designs options. The activity was one of three presented to students as part of Consolidated Nuclear Security’s educational outreach during EWeek.

Oak Ridge High School students work together to assemble a tower out of toothpicks and marshmallows after being provided structurally sound designs options. The activity was one of three presented to students as part of Consolidated Nuclear Security’s educational outreach during EWeek.

As engineering professionals across the nation celebrated Engineers Week—or EWeek—February 17-23, nine engineers from Y-12 National Security Complex shared their love of engineering with 1,000 Oak Ridge High School students. These Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC employees hoped to spark interest and encourage these students to pursue engineering careers.

EWeek was started by the National Society of Professional Engineers in 1951. The program is now promoted by DiscoverE and engages engineer volunteers in K-12 education to sustain and grow a dynamic engineering profession through outreach, education, celebration and volunteerism.

Y-12 engineers hosted a day-long event at ORHS that included exposure to mechanical, structural and chemical engineering. Approximately 1,000 students rotated through stations that allowed them to build weight-bearing structures, explore tower designs and determine how various chemicals and liquids affect buoyancy.

Kristin Waldschlager, educational outreach specialist for CNS, noted, “This type of outreach is vitally important to Y-12 because our mission relies on a steady supply of bright engineers.”

Jonathan Gomez of Y-12 interacts with students as they create aluminum foil boats to test the effects of liquid composition on buoyancy.

Jonathan Gomez of Y-12 interacts with students as they create aluminum foil boats to test the effects of liquid composition on buoyancy.

Matthew Chapa, a nuclear criticality safety engineer who organized the day’s activities, said the reason for the outreach is simple. “For many students in the area, these school outreach visits during Engineers Week are their only exposure to working engineers,” he said.

While the setup, coordination and execution of the day can be challenging, some rewards are immediate. Chapa said, “It’s extremely rewarding to see the students engaged in creative problem solving.” He also noted that some of the students created designs that surpassed the working engineers’ imaginations.

As for the long-term rewards? Maybe one day some of these students will be Chapa’s coworkers at Y-12.

Almost 1,000 students participated in activities throughout the day.