On February 23, a number of Verizon employees in New Jersey joined with students from the Rutgers School of Engineering to host 60 seventh and eighth graders from New Brunswick Middle School at a National Engineers Week event, the Rutgers School of Engineering/Verizon STEM Day.
It was a very hands-on experience for the middle-school students, who learned engineering principles and then applied them by building, powering and racing model cars or other moving objects.
The event took place at the Rutgers Busch Campus Student Center, where the middle-school students heard from Thomas N. Farris, dean of Rutgers Engineering; Beth Drohan, vice president of national network operations for Verizon Wireless; and from a number of college students who talked about their own engineering projects.
Verizon participated in the event to spark the middle schoolers’ interest in STEM topics, and to encourage them to stay in school.
According to Ellen Yu, a Verizon spokeswoman, the hands-on projects at the event allowed the middle schoolers to experience the fun side of STEM, and to learn about the opportunities available to those with such knowledge.
Drohan talked with the middle schoolers about the great demand for people with STEM degrees, and explained the need for STEM and “all the wonderful things that can happen because of it.”
During the day, the Rutgers students and Verizon employees helped the middle schoolers (who were divided into teams) build the model vehicles and figure out how to power them with air or water pressure or solar power. Two teams worked on controlling racing objects with tablet computers.
Each team then had to race the vehicle it had created. The winners received Verizon-branded cups with straws.
Yu reported that, in a race pitting objects powered by air and water, one team’s vehicle looked as if it wasn’t going to make it across the room, but the gadget kicked into high gear and cut off the other vehicle to win the race. Students and volunteers screamed with excitement and disbelief.
Hsingyo Yin, a freshman studying civil and electrical engineering at Rutgers, said that she enjoyed working with the middle schoolers and wished she’d had this opportunity when she was in middle school.
Rutgers students also benefited from the day’s activities. They learned about employment and internship opportunities at Verizon.
Jessica Cruz, a senior who will graduate with a degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering, has already accepted a position in a Verizon Leadership Development Program, starting in June. She said that she was happy to help the middle-school students, as she came from a similar background, and added, “Today’s experience will help them realize their potential.”
Anielka Reyes, a teacher at the New Brunswick Middle School, told Yu that the day had been “great” for her students. She explained that, while her students had had similar experiences with local companies, the Rutgers/Verizon event was unique because of the hands-on activities, which will have a bigger impact on them.
Verizon employees Colette Hazen and Andrew Allen led their colleagues in organizing the event.