By Sue Brink 

NAVFAC Southeast Public Affairs

Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast civilians and military personnel joined in the Jacksonville District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) 2017 Engineering Career Day February 24 in Jacksonville. 

"The students are here because of their fascination with engineering and the Army Corps of Engineers," said Lt. Rhett Johnson, NAVFAC Southeast architect.

"To their surprise, they also have an opportunity to learn about the Navy, NAVFAC and the Seabees as leaders in engineering while they are here."

"We help the kids understand that we (NAVFAC) support the warfighters by solving problems and constructing solutions. It's at the heart of what we do," said Johnson who manned an informational display at the event.

"Likewise, it was a lot of fun to observe the ingenuity of some of Jacksonville's youth coming up with solutions with their projects."  

As part of the culmination of National Engineers Week, which is always the last week in February, the Jacksonville District of the Army Corps of Engineers hosts an Engineering Career Day competition for local high schools and their math, science, and engineering interested students.

Fourteen teams of high school students and teachers from eight public and private schools in Northeast Florida attended the event and project competition. The day-long event is co-sponsored by the Jacksonville District USACOE and the Society of American Engineers (SAME) and has been for 15 years. The event is one of the major events of Northeast Florida Engineers Week.

The event challenged four-person 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.  

Math and engineering teams were provided a take home problem by the USACE Engineering Career Day Committee. The students were charged with building a portable flume that was scored on fastest assembly time (30 percent), slowest overall steel ball bearing (SBB) travel time (50 percent) and best aesthetics (20 percent).

Judges used a stopwatch to determine the amount of time it took each team to assemble their flume. The team with the fastest assembly time was be awarded the most points for this criteria. Assembly time was limited to five minutes.

Judges again used a stopwatch to determine the length of time it took for the SBB to complete the flume run starting at SBB release and ending with light activation at the end of the flume run. Each flume was tested five times with the longest duration being accepted for final scoring.

Judges also assessed each assembled flume on aesthetics, quality of construction, engineering soundness, and esprit de corps. 

The winning team's run time was just under 98 seconds maxing out the points available in that category at 50. That team put their flume together in 265 seconds earning 18.95 of the available 30 points in that category and went on to earn 14.5 points out of 20 for aesthetics for a total of 83.45 points out of 100.

"This is the fifth year I've served as judge and this was one of the most challenging take home projects yet," said NAVFAC Southeast Chief Engineer and Capital Improvements Business Line Coordinator Jack McCarthy, one of the judges for the competition. 

"Several teams struggled to get their flumes to work this year," said McCarthy. "It's always fun to watch the teams solve problems when they encounter a difficulty. You find out almost immediately who the leaders are." 

There was also a surprise problem that required students to design and construct a cantilever from materials provided. The cantilever that held the most pennies at failure was crowned the winner. The overall winning team was Providence Team C. Their cantilever supported 976 grams of pennies (390), a third more than their nearest competitor at 592 grams (237 pennies).

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.  

"I look forward to the competition every year," said McCarthy. "I enjoy watching the kids' minds work. Their drive and determination gives me hope for the future."