Discover Engineering Week educates Crystal Lake School District 47 students on growing STEM field

CRYSTAL LAKE – Electrical engineer Evan Klepitsch recently visited Hannah Beardsley Middle School, his old stomping ground, to teach Crystal Lake Community Consolidated School District 47 students about engineering and what he does on a day-to-day basis.

“I hope that they understand what opportunities are available to them in this field,” Klepitsch said. “And hopefully see that engineering is a fun career that is also a rewarding one.”

During his visit, Klepitsch, who works for security company Northrop Grumman, shared with eighth-grade students a brief description of his duties as an engineer and then gave them an assignment. Students were tasked with building a structure out of a few sheets of paper and tape that would hold a textbook 40 centimeters off of the ground. They were allowed to request materials to help build the structure, but at the expense of diving into a set budget.

“I was happy to see one of the groups succeed in this engineering challenge, even if they did spend a lot,” Klepitsch said.

This challenge was a part of the district’s seventh annual Discover Engineering Week, which promotes engineering and other STEM careers to young students. The four-day program took place from Tuesday to Friday at Hannah Beardsley Middle School, and it included several presentations from professional engineers along with fun challenges for the students to partake in.

One of the District 47 students to participate in the textbook challenge was eighth-grader Tyler Bredemeier.

“I think engineering is a field I could get into,” Bredemeier said. “It just seems like a fun thing to do, and there are a lot of interesting careers.”

Even though Bredemeier’s group didn’t succeed in the challenge, he said he understood his team’s errors and knew how to correct them.

“This program is great for showing young kids what engineering really is,” said Mary Warren, an eighth-grade science teacher at Hannah Beardsley. “It helps us fill a need in the country to develop more problem solvers for the future.”

Warren said that there’s an increasing number of engineering jobs becoming available that need qualified applicants.

“Seven years ago, when the program started, it was very successful, so we wanted to keep it going and build on it,” Warren said. “We wanted to challenge our kids to think outside the box in math and science, and the program has been doing that.”

Representatives from local businesses, McHenry County College and Crystal Lake-based Community High School District 155 also visited the students during the program to talk about engineering careers. One of the presentations was about District 155’s Project Lead the Way, which aims to promote engineering by introducing high school students to engineering courses with the goal of earning first-year engineering college credit.

“I took Project Lead the Way myself at Prairie Ridge,” Klepitsch said. “I really enjoyed those classes and knew I wanted to do engineering as a career at that point.”

Science teacher Jennifer Drozt said Discover Engineering Week and Project Lead the Way are great programs because they help students learn about engineering at an early age.

“If we can get more kids interested in engineering, then it benefits everyone,” said Drozt, who was an engineer for 17 years before becoming a teacher. “More schools should start promoting this career choice before the students even get to high school.”

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