Students and employers built some valuable connections recently during the second session of the Engineering Explorers program. The program began in spring 2013 and connects students with local engineering firms to expand their knowledge of the field. For a few hours each week for three weeks, students engage with engineering professionals through job shadowing and facility tours.
The program focuses on available career and educational opportunities and is open to high school students across Kent ISD. Explorers offers visits to colleges such as GVSU’s Padnos College of Engineering and experiences with employers. The inaugural spring session involved six local firms, which grew to 13 for the recent winter session.
Visiting the employers is a great experience, according to Christina Wyngarden, a student at Calvin Christian High School, who visited Cascade Engineering, “It’s hard to know what a job is like until you experience it first hand.”
Many Options, Jobs
Almost everything used on a day-to-day basis starts with engineers. “It doesn’t just get here by magic – there are engineers behind the scene,” explains Brian Parker of Cascade Engineering, a 40-year-old company that specializes in injection molding, “plastics, wheels, anything from car parts to chairs.”
“If you like science and math, problem solving, testing and breaking things, engineering may be for you,” said Parker. “Not everything is made in China these days.”
Wyngarden, who hopes to study mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan, said she appreciates the opportunity to get a better idea of what the job requires. She was amazed by the variety of fields in the industry and by seeing “…car parts and trash cans being produced right next to each other.”
Collin Green of Caledonia High School was also shadowing at Cascade Engineering and noticed, “Lots of engineers are doing many different things for one project.” Green understands the demand for many different engineers and hopes to go into mechanical engineering. He thinks he’d like to be part of a research and development team creating new products.
“Educating and exposing more kids will produce better engineers in the future,” said Ryan Cleaver, of Cascade Engineering. He said possibilities are endless for future engineers and that every job could be very different from the next. “We wish there were more Collin’s and Christina’s. If students realized what happed behind the scenes, more would be interested in this job.”
A difficult decision for students that are interested in engineering is what type of engineering to study. It can get confusing figuring out what specific jobs require and what the students should study. Engineering Explorers helps clarify this confusion by immersing the student in the field.
When talking of her son Collin’s experience with Engineering Explorers, Kelly Green said, “These experiences have given him invaluable insights into the world of engineering and the broad base of disciplines it offers.”
Green also said Collin was interested in mechanical engineering initially, but since the program he has been looking into biomedical engineering. Partially because of his experience with Engineering Explorers, Collin has since been selected as one of five students to participate in the VanBree Science Interim offered by Caledonia High School and will be traveling to California to visit top 100 technology firms such as Apple and Google.
For more information or to become a mentor: Engineering Explorers