As part of the ACE Mentor Program, Melissa Harmon presented an introduction to structural engineering to the participating Calvert County High School students. The ACE Mentor Program gives high school students an opportunity to learn about Architecture, Construction and Engineering. The program is voluntary, so these students are dedicating some of their evenings to attend the ACE program. This year, the project is to design a pet spa facility, which they need to lay out on a real site, provide the architectural, structural, mechanical and electrical design, or at least the concepts of each of these fields. As the structural expert, Melissa presented the basics of structural engineering, including types of loads, code requirements, load paths, stresses, and some basic material and span information. It was amazing how much the students absorbed! After the presentation, she provided a demonstration of lateral forces using a shake table, which was borrowed from the SEI Maryland chapter. The evening ended with a group competition to build the strongest tower using toothpicks and gum drops; not the most conventional materials, but the students did a fantastic job! It was interesting to see the variety of structures when given the same exact materials and criteria. Of the four teams, two supported 2 pounds, one team support 4 pounds and the winning team supported 5 pounds! Impressive for using only tooth picks and gum drops.
The best part was that after the activities were over, a few of the students said they wanted to become structural engineers! Melissa was pleased to have been a part of this wonderful program!