YPG exposes young people to engineering careers
Yuma Proving Ground employs people in variety of positions, many of them in engineering, but relatively few of those engineers grew up in the local area. A YPG program aims to interest young people from the Yuma area in engineering early so they might become future YPG employees.
Late last year, the proving ground implemented the Engineers in Elementary Schools program that sees young engineers visit classrooms to spark the interest of students at the fourth- and fifth-grade levels in engineering careers. The basic idea is to urge kids to start preparing for technical careers by doing well in all their subjects in school, including mathematics and science.
Program presenters plan to visit elementary schools throughout the county. Since the first school visit in late November, they have visited nine schools thus far in several Yuma County communities: Wellton, San Luis, Somerton and Yuma. Program organizers set a goal to visit the many schools that want the presentation by the end of the spring term. Right now, the program is on track to do just that.
Iris Espinoza, YPG civilian training and outreach manager, coordinates the program, which puts an engineer, typically a relatively recent college graduate, in front of groups that have varied from 20 to more than 100 kids. The engineer delivers a “one-hour, high-energy presentation” on several of the engineering disciplines and on the types of things engineers in those areas do.
The intention is to communicate with and engage young people to introduce them to the possibility of someday becoming engineers. Too many young people, says Espinoza, still see the prospect of attending a university and receiving a college degree as an unattainable goal. Studies show that many students lose interest in science around the fourth- and fifth-grade levels.
“We often see blank stares from kids when we ask them what an engineer is after we enter the classroom. Many think engineers only drive locomotives or fire engines.”
By the end of the visit, however, things are different.
“Kids have preconceived notions that gradually change,” Espinoza explained. “We show them the many types of engineers there are, all the types of jobs that they can do and we tell them that engineers are problem-solvers. We also tell them that anyone willing to do the work can become one.”
Program presenters have adjusted the presentation as they gained experience and have enjoyed the academic reception they have received. One teacher has asked them to return to assist with a science project, and each visit ends with a barrage of questions from the students: Is being an engineer fun? What do I do to become one?
Educators can contact Espinoza at 328-7740 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chuck Wullenjohn is the public affairs officer for the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground. He can be reached at email@example.com.