Article by Leanne McConnell
This past April, students from the South Hills Interfaith Ministries (SHIM) participated in a Civil Engineering Professional Mentoring session with the Pittsburgh ASCE Section at the SHIM facility in Brentwood, PA. The session explained and demonstrated fundamentals of civil engineering. ASCE members recommended what students should do to work towards entering the civil engineering field.
The discussions were then followed by a hands-on activity called "The Cardboard Beam." This activity included having the students break into groups and produce a cardboard beam that had to be designed following certain parameters. The beam to be long enough to span across a paint bucket, but students were only allowed a specific amount of material. Each beam was tested by attaching a water jug with string to the center of the beam and adding water. Once the water jug connected to the beam hit the bottom of the bucket, the beam failed and the amount of water in the jug was recorded.
The teams worked together to conceptualize a design and then make it a reality. At the end of the activity, the students had an open discussion stating their successes and things they could improve next time.
The students who attended this session are the first from their families to consider pursuing professions that require a college degree or continued education. The mentoring program aims at offering opportunities to students that their parents and grandparents never had. The students use these sessions as a resource to understand unfamiliar professions and requirements. The mentoring program also gives students the opportunity to ask professionals questions and for advice. Together, ASCE and SHIM were able to provide exposure to civil engineering as a viable career option and offer resources to obtain further professional development in the field of engineering.