T-V students learn engineering career options

NEW MADISON – “I’m a computer and cyber engineer who troubleshoots potential problems for our clients,” said Marty Piszkiewicz. “That just a fancy way of saying I’m a hacker.” Some students chuckled. Others grinned… “But I’m a good hacker,” he added.

The cyber engineer from Pretalen then told Tri-Village junior high and high school students at their Engineering Challenge Day Dec. 16 his job is to protect computers from being hacked. “I create viruses and malware. Then I find ways to beat them.”

One example he gave was a car model that controlled headlights, windshield wipers and more through Wi-Fi. Hackers could have gotten into the program… a potential scenario was driving down the freeway at 70 mph and suddenly windshield wipers go on, headlights go off… “People could get really hurt,” Piszkiewicz said.

Daniel Crouse and Logan Thompson, Whirlpool, presented their session on mechanical and industrial engineering. They talked about their various KitchenAid products and how engineers are needed to solve different types of production challenges. One example they gave was designing and introducing a new product; another was fixing a bottleneck on the production of a current product. They also noted how their engineers resolve a complaint: Find the cause, find the solution and put it in place.

Before the presentations, however, 160 high school and junior high students were broken into 20 teams and given the challenge of building a freestanding tower that could withstand a mock “hurricane” while holding up a tennis ball. The teams were each given identical materials and tools to work with, and a time limit of 20 minutes. The mock “hurricane” consisted of a fan and spray bottle of water. Grading factors were a combination of the height of the tower and the length of time it could withstand the “hurricane.”

According to Christina Gutierrez, eighth grade STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) and physical science teacher, this is the first time this event has been offered to Tri-Village students. “It gets the kids engaged, and possibly lead them into engineering careers,” she said. “We’re looking at doing it again in the spring… or at least annually.” The event is targeted for grades eight through 11.

George Kowalski, biology and STEM teacher, said it wasn’t enough to just teach STEM… it was also about showing them different engineering fields. “We want to expose them to what they can do,” he added.

Also making presentations to the students were Dave Lowe, Vectren, on mechanical and energy engineering, and Geoff Holmes, Environmental Protection Agency, on civil and environmental engineering.

PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their STEM education, Tri-Village students spend the morning learning about different possible careers in an engineering field. First, however, they were given a challenge: build a freestanding tower that will hold a tennis ball while withstanding a mock “hurricane.”

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