News: Corps brings youth to work, promotes love for hard sciences
Story by John Budnik
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A youthful spirit bounced through the halls of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Alaska District as children learned about the different responsibilities of the organization that employs their parents.
With wide eyes and plentiful curiosity, 24 children between the ages 9 and 17 visited the district headquarters building Feb. 14 to participate in the biennial Bring Your Youth to Work Day event. The kids were encouraged to think about future careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics as well.
“It’s an outreach to the community and to the families of the district,” said Tatton Suter, event coordinator and civil engineer in the Engineering Division. “The more knowledge we can get out there, the more people will understand our role in the community.”
The Corps recognizes that education in the hard sciences plays a critical role in enabling the United States to remain an economic and technological leader in the global marketplace. The Corps is committed to teaming with others to strengthen STEM-related programs that inspire current and future generations of young people to pursue careers in those fields.
"We are committed to keeping America technologically strong by promoting careers in STEM," said Maj. Mark DeRocchi, deputy commander of the Alaska District. "By bringing children of Corps employees into the workplace we hope to cultivate their interest in the same or related career field for the future."
The children were welcomed to the Alaska District with presentations about the duties of each division. Afterwards, the children rotated between five stations filled with hands-on activities during the morning session. Each demonstration exposed them to a different element of the Corps of Engineers such as breakwaters, cost engineering, computer generated modeling, environmental sampling and wetland permitting.
In the afternoon, the groups attended an introduction to FIRST LEGO League robotics. Bruce Sexauer, chief of the Planning Section in the Civil Works Branch, coaches a Girl Scouts of Alaska robotics team. Recently crowned state champs, his crew showcased a few challenges that are faced during competitions such as problem-solving, teamwork and communication.
“This is a great hands-on experience for the kids to be able to build something and experiment with computer programming in a structured environment,” Sexauer said.
Capt. Robert Weakland, civil engineer in the Geotechnical and Materials Section, and a pilot for the Alaska Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, led a field trip to the unit’s helicopter hangar on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. A UH-60 Black Hawk was available for an up-close experience and the children learned about the physics of flight.
The youthful spirit had grown weary by the end of the day, but the children went home with a greater appreciation for their parents’ careers and perhaps a few ideas for their future.
“The earlier we can communicate to youth the importance of an education, it will open doors for them,” Suter said. “Those doors will lead to greater possibilities.”