Round up: recent STEM outreach in our communities

Our firm has always been guided by the three principles of excellent professional reputation, profit, and growth. Beyond these pillars, we also instill the values of honesty, integrity, and service into all that we do. We focus particularly on the importance of service, especially when it comes to our community involvement.

Community involvement can include in-kind and financial donations, employee volunteer days, charity and planning board participation, and more. We established the PennoniGIVES program to assist employees in their volunteer work. Our employees provide contributions that are both financial and service-oriented, and we annually support initiatives that promote a better quality of life, education, and community growth in the areas we serve. Overall, these efforts bring positive, measurable change to both the communities and our firm, while allowing for team building, employee involvement, and community relationship building.

Often this involvement includes furthering STEM education within our communities. Some recent efforts are detailed below:

Project BUILD

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Philadelphia Section teamed up with the Free Library of Philadelphia to offer Project BUILD. This program is designed to engage students in grades 2-5, their families, librarians, and professional engineers in an informal learning environment with age appropriate, technology-rich STEM learning experiences fundamental to the engineering design process. Students can start thinking about STEM-related careers as possible options for their futures and to receive guidance through engineering professionals’ insights and experiences. ASCE Philadelphia Section is one of six cities that were selected to run this two-year test program.

Kazi M. Hassan, PE, Senior Engineer, has acted as an ASCE lead volunteer for the program during its test over the past two years, working together with the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Overbrook Park branch to provide fun, engaging and informative lessons to young students in the community. Engineers from transportation, municipal, and site design divisions volunteered to make this project a success.

Hassan said, “It was a good experience overall, seeing the creativity of 2nd to 5th graders is always amazing. At some of the events, parents were engaged and that’s important for STEM education. One of the goals for the program is to motivate the parents/guardians to  talk to the kids about STEM on their own time.”

The BUILD in Project BUILD stands for Building Using an Interactive Learning Design and focuses on four core engineering programs: Span-tastic Bridges, Designed to Survive, Clean Up Our World and Power from Nature. Each program was covered over the course of four monthly events at the Overbrook Park library.

CivE Club:

Over the past school year, Sean McCreesh, PE, Staff Engineer, has been leading the ASCE-sponsored Civil Engineering Club (CivE Club) at the Chester A. Arthur Middle School in Philadelphia, PA. ASCE’s Civil Engineering Club initiative is an afterschool program that offers students an opportunity to learn more about the civil engineering field.   The CivE Club at the Chester A. Arthur Middle School began in 2012 and was the first club of its kind in Pennsylvania. This year the CivE Club consists of approximately 15 middle school students, which is one of the largest clubs to date.

The club meets every Monday throughout the school year and each meeting consists of a short presentation on a different civil engineering discipline followed by a related activity. Each activity ends in a friendly competition between the students where they compare and evaluate the benefits of their different designs. Some of the activities this year include creating water filtration systems, building towers with marshmallows and toothpicks, creating landfills and using Streetmix to design a roadway.

The final two months of the club typically focus on a balsa wood bridge building competition. For this competition, the students compete amongst themselves to design and construct the most efficient balsa wood bridge that meets specific design requirements. To conclude the CivE Club for this year, the students and their families will gather for the 8th Annual Balsa Wood Bridge Testing & Award Ceremony tentatively scheduled for May 18th, 2020

K-12 Outreach:

Over the past school year, Dani Schroeder, EIT, Associate Engineer, has been leading a local K-12 Outreach program sponsored by ASCE. This robust STEM outreach program was built through creating and fostering strong connections with schools, educators, and STEM organizations in the greater Philadelphia area. As of the end of February of this year, we have already reached 1030 students through our K-12 Outreach efforts this school year.

“My personal favorite event this year was going back to my elementary school, Presentation B.V.M. School, which is in Cheltenham, PA. We presented to the entire school which includes more than 200 students in Kindergarten through 8th grade. Unique to this visit, we had the students pair up with their prayer partners (Kindergarten with 8th grade, etc.) so that each team was comprised of 5-6 students of various ages – similar to how engineering teams are comprised of members with varying levels of experiences and strengths! I will be honest that it was somewhat organized chaos during the activity portion to keep all 35 teams on task to complete the hands on activity titled “Slender Tower Challenge”, but thanks to our volunteers (and some help from the teachers), all teams successfully designed and built a tower (with the tallest measured at 74 inches)! We also were able to conclude the visit with a video from ASCE’s Dream Big movie that provided a real-life example of a slender tower. The short clip explains how the unique rotational design of the Shanghai Tower in China reduces the effect of wind forces by about 20 percent.” – Dani Schroeder 

A summary video of the ASCE Philadelphia Younger Member Forum K-12 Outreach program can be viewed here:


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