Junior high students don’t often have a chance to design a city, learn about chemistry and crushed rock, and build leaning towers of spaghetti all between a continental breakfast and pizza lunch.
But 30 eighth-grade Nampa girls made the most of their opportunity Thursday when they toured ITD Headquarters for Engineering Girls Day. Attentive, inquisitive, and energetic, the girls migrated between seven stations in the ITD labs to discover how ITD tests aggregate, concrete strength and reflectivity of highway paint.
They also met Van-essa Miles, ITD’s well-traveled profiler vehicle that records every stretch of Idaho highway to document pavement conditions.
The morning began with a welcome and introduction to engineering by ITD Chief Engineer Tom Cole. He set the stage for the day by encouraging students to ask questions and learn from their experience.
ITD engineers Monica Crider and Amy Schroeder engaged the girls in a “whiteboard” project for nearly an hour to challenge their planning skills. Each girl selected feature to add to a burgeoning whiteboard city – from Little Caesar’s Pizza, to a shopping mall, rodeo arena, mini-golf, theater, NASCAR track, school, hospital, church, neighborhoods, jail, fire station …
Crider and Schroeder then evaluated the girls’ design decisions from transportation and environmental perspectives and discussed the placement of highways and roads.
After lab tours and lunch, the girls – who representing four Nampa junior high schools – worked together in teams to turn dry spaghetti noodles, tape and string into freestanding towers capable of supporting a marshmallow. The design-build winner was judged on the surviving tower height.
Chief Operations Officer Paul Steinman concluded the four-hour visit by discussing the role engineers play in the daily lives of citizens. “What is the thing that you use on a daily basis that engineers touch?” he asked. No, not paper.
The answer: Roads.
He described the role that engineers of all disciplines play in improving the quality of life and encouraged girls interested in choosing an engineering career path to begin concentrating on math and science classes as early as possible.
Michelle George, an external EEO specialist in ITD’s Human Resource Services, organized the event with the assistance of other HRS colleagues, ITD engineers, and private-sector engineering partners.
The event’s success would not have been possible without those contributions, George said. Participants included:
Private partners: Dave Butzier (URS/Connecting Idaho Partners) and Dick Jacobson (CH2M HILL/Connecting Partners) who donated (refreshments); and Lisa Vernon (Elite Edge Engineers, who provided lunch and assisted with the marshmallow tower-building exercise).