Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast civilians and military personnel participated in the Jacksonville District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) 2018 Engineering Career Day Feb. 23.

The annual event introduces high school students to engineering as a career by presenting hands-on activities, providing interaction with engineers from the government, private industry, and several university representatives, as well as providing a road map on how to become an engineer.

“The teams are given a problem that incorporates math, science and engineering principles,” said NAVFAC Southeast Chief Engineer Jack McCarthy. “They bring their completed projects to the Army Corps offices and compete with one another based on aesthetics, quality of construction, engineering soundness and esprit de corps. I have been honored to serve as a judge at this highly competitive competition for the last seven years.”

More than 90 students from ten different public and private schools in northeast and central Florida attended the event. The daylong competition is co-sponsored by the Jacksonville District USACOE and the Society of American Engineers (SAME) and has been for 16 years. The event is one of the major events of Northeast Florida Engineers Week.

The event challenged student teams to compete in building and entering a take home project, completing a surprise project assigned the day of the event, and completing a trivia challenge.

For this year’s theme, “Power of the Wind,” students had to design and fabricate a portable wind turbine that could harness wind energy and convert it to useful power. Volunteer judges tested the projects by timing and measuring the distance the turbine was able to raise a weight.

The surprise project required students to design and construct a structure out of straws and tape that could support the weight of a tennis ball. The groups were judged on how long the structure could remain standing when placed in front of a fan.

One of the eighth grade teams, from The Weiss School, located in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently working with SpaceX to deliver and monitor certain types of bacteria, to determine if they can exist in space.

“There are a bunch of smart kids out there,” said McCarthy. “It was a pleasure to work with them.”

The competition promotes Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). STEM is a national education program focused on preparing the workforce of tomorrow by encouraging students today to focus on these areas of study. The hope is the competition will inspire the scholars’ efforts and energies toward careers in STEM fields in the future.

During the event, NAVFAC Southeast Facilities Engineering Acquisition Division Director Lt. Cmdr. Richard Buechel and Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay Assistant Public Works Officer Lt. j.g. Frank Sysko spoke to students about which engineering disciplines they were considering, what colleges they might be thinking of attending or if they were thinking about a military career. The information booth they set up provided the students information on military and civilian STEM careers with the Navy.