2016 EXPLORING ENGINEERING ACADEMY
By: Nikki Welch
For 16 years now, the Exploring Engineers Academy has been providing a week of STEM-related group tours, presentations and hands on learning for high school students. The volunteer-lead efforts are co-sponsored by The Boy Scouts of America with the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) and the five-day long camp is held on the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) campus.
“We want to expose them to engineering and what it’s all about,” says volunteer Ray Willcocks. In order to achieve a complete immersion into engineering around Atlanta, the volunteers put together a schedule for the week that includes tours of the forthcoming Suntrust Stadium where the Atlanta Braves will be moving, as well as tours of the Federal Reserve, Falcons Stadium, Atlanta Watershed, The Porsche Plant and the Atlanta Aquarium. Other companies involved in educational presentations include: Delta, Novalis, Toto, Six Flags, General Electric, The Museum of Design Atlanta and, of course, Georgia Tech.
“The companies are so accommodating and bring their brightest and best to talk to the students,” says Aisha Stith, Exploring Executive with the Boy Scouts of America. With such a diverse selection of engineering and technology companies on the agenda, the students are not only exposed to the many different sectors of engineering, but also get to experience some special behind-the-scenes features. “The students will be the first to get a group tour of the Porsche plant, were able to see the construction phase happening at Suntrust Park and got to experience a VIP access tour with the engineers who helped build the aquarium,” says Stith.
Both Willcocks and Stith agree that the program draws a group of students who are incredibly engaged and interested in all aspects of the engineering industry. “The quality of the kids who attend is unbelievable,” notes Willcocks; Stith adding, “There’s a lot of interest in this program – way beyond what we can accommodate. There were 100 families on the waitlist this year.”
The program has definitely experienced significant growth recently, however; “This year, we have 23 out of the 62 students who represent different minorities – different ethnic groups and gender. Each year we try to increase the number of young ladies who participate,” says Stith. “Last year we had 11 girls and this year we have 12. We’re growing, but we’re looking for different ways to present this to the young ladies.
The Exploring Engineers Academy is the largest of the 12 STEM-related Exploring Programs in Georgia. “It’s a phenomenal program,” says Stitch, “I think in the future we could do it on a much larger scale.”