On Friday, May 29th, Maureen Sakakeeny, Principal Engineer and Owner of SAK Environmental, paid a visit to the fifth grade classes at Linscott-Rumford Elementary School in Woburn with Eva D’Antuono from the US Army Corps of Engineers New England District in Concord, MA. Both are active members in SAME Boston Post, Maureen serving on the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Outreach Committee and both have connections at the school. Forty plus years earlier, Maureen was a student at the Linscott-Rumford and Eva’s son Matt is currently in the fifth grade at the school.
Maureen planned the outreach visit, focusing on what engineering was and the importance of engineering and science for the future of the country and the world, touching on some of the National Academy of Engineer’s “Grand Challenges”. She talked about her background as a student at their school, and her introduction to engineering as a career option from a female engineer from Bell Laboratories who visited her high school. Majoring in engineering at Tufts University, she went on to highlight her career as a civil engineer and some of the interesting projects she’s worked on. She is now an Owner of an environmental engineering firm and also works with students to encourage them in STEM from elementary through college.
Eva told about the Army Corps of Engineer’s work in recognizable locations like Boston harbor and the Cape Cod bridges, and wanted students to know about engineering as a career field. “We want to plant a seed,” said Eva, “so you can think about engineering and involve yourselves in coursework and activities in middle and high school, like robotics and science fairs, that support STEM careers.” She is not an engineer, and never knew about engineering when she was growing up. Now she works with many engineers and scientists and sees their importance and relevance to our world.
Maureen described science as discovery and engineering as problem solving – both needing a strong foundation in math and science through school. She showed a clip from the movie “Apollo 13”, which depicts NASA engineering a solution to adapt and fix an air filter to get the astronauts home after damage to their oxygen tanks.
Then the students got to work on their own problem to solve – design and make a bungee cord to drop an egg from a height of 5 feet, to land within 2 inches of the floor without breaking. The exercise was taken from PBS’s online STEM resources.
The students dove right into their project – using elastics, nylons, yarn and balloons to construct their bungee cord. Using an equivalent weight of pennies, the students tested their bungee before competing with the real egg. All eight teams of students successfully made a bungee and no eggs broke during the testing! The distance from the floor that the egg landed varied from ½” to 24” and students wanted to keep refining their design to improve their performance.
The teachers and students were enthused about the project, and Principal Ernie Wells stopped by to see the activities. “The math and science are not always easy, but keep working at it,” said Maureen, “you don’t have to be the genius of the class to be an engineer, and sometimes you need to fail to improve on your designs.” It was a great message and a great Friday afternoon for these fifth graders.
For more information about SAK Environmental LLC, visit http://www.sakenvironmental.com/
For information about US Army Corps of Engineers, New England http://www.nae.usace.army.mil/
For more information about SAME, please visit http://www.same.org/
For information about the PBS online STEM resources, please visit http://pbskids.org/zoom/activites/sci/