More than 100 middle-school students from across Maryland learned about blocking cell phone signals, surveying downtown city streets, and using science to pinpoint the origins of an epidemic as part of some of the many activities at the annual “Easy as Pi” event hosted by the Baltimore Chapter of the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) Wednesday, March 30 in downtown Baltimore.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with other agencies and contractors that work in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), participated in the annual outreach event designed to not only encourage students to pursue careers in STEM fields, but to also understand the wide variety of careers in the STEM spectrum.
“I hope we touched some of the lives of these seventh and eighth graders, so that they truly understand the variety of careers in these various fields,” said Emily Schiffmacher, chief of the Military Programs Section of the Environmental and Munitions Design Center of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District. “There are new careers developing every day from discoveries they’re making in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”
Schiffmacher coordinated the Easy as Pi event in her personal role as the student mentoring chair and treasurer for the Baltimore Chapter of SAME.
Jeanne Judd, chief of the Technical Support Group from Baltimore District’s Real Property Services Field Office, presented on design and construction of facilities for the military and other customers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, including incorporating areas where privacy may be critical. Of most interest to the middle school students was the idea of blocking cell phone signals, as Judd led them through an activity where they used cardboard boxes and other material to make an area where cell phones had no signal.
Other presenters included Lt. Iman Martin, an epidemic intelligence service officer with the U.S. Public Health Service that led the students in an exercise where they solved the mystery of a fake epidemic, and Civil Engineer Blake Linkous of locally based engineering firm WBCM, who reviewed surveying for design and construction.
NASA Astronaut Donald Thomas, who went on four missions into space from 1994 to 1997, was the event’s keynote speaker. In
addition to answering students’ questions about life in space, he also talked about his years of working toward his dream of becoming an astronaut, despite multiple obstacles and rejections.
Thomas noted he didn’t think the most important things for the students to remember was that he had spent 44 days in space, orbited the earth 692 times, or the ins and outs of how astronauts go to the bathroom in space, but rather that it may be difficult, and take years of work – but that with dedication and real hard work, students could be anything they wanted to be.
“The most important thing you can take away from today is to keep trying,” Thomas told the room full of students. “I know you can do anything you want in your career and life, but it will take hard work and persistence.”