Leonard Engineering

Leonard Engineering was Honored to be one of the Sponsors for the 2015 Kentucky Region Future City Competition

By Elleanor Leonard

On January 19, Steve and I were two of the judges at the 2015 Future City Kentucky Regional Competition held at the University of Kentucky.  This year 42 teams of roughly 200 sixth, seventh and eighth grade students from Kentucky and Tennessee competed for several awards.

The Future City Competition is an educational engineering program that gives students a chance to present their vision of the city of the future with hands on applications using engineering principles and challenges.  This year’s challenge asked students to design an urban farm environment to grow enough of one vegetable crop and one protein crop to feed their citizens. More than 40,000 students from 1,350 middle schools are participating nationwide in the regional competitions.  Girls comprise 46% of the competitors.

Pikeville Junior High School won the overall championship, followed by runner-up Graves County 4-H, and third place Clayton-Bradley Academy, from Tennessee.  Pikeville will represent Kentucky at the National Competition this month in Washington, DC.

Leonard Engineering was honored to sponsor the Structural Engineering Award.  One of the five items that each team is judged on is a city model.  Given only a $100 budget, each team built a model of its city to scale with at least one moving part and using mostly recycled materials.

We were very impressed with the team from Drakes Creek Middle School in Bowling Green.  The “Element City” team of 3 girls and 2 boys won the Structural Engineering Award that Leonard Engineering sponsored.  It was clear that they had given hours of thought to their structure.

This team does not match STEM statistics.  According to a 2012 report by National Science Board, boys are six time more likely than girls to take a course that includes engineering during K-12.  That translates into boys being three times more likely to be interested in STEM majors and careers when compared to girls.  Nationally, women earn only 18% of engineering bachelor’s degrees.  This fact was obvious during this month’s Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District Industry Day.  It appeared that less than 20% of the attendees were women, and several of those were not engineers.

Future City 2015As the president of a woman-owned structural engineering firm, I think about what is needed for our two daughters and other girls to enter the field.  Competitions are one path.  For example, the Future City Competition helps students build skills they will need for an engineering career such as teamwork, public speaking, project management, writing, research and problem solving.  More to the point, 65% of competitors see themselves as engineers when they grow up, and 84% report that the competition helped them see math and science are important to their future.  We were happy to take a Monday away from our projects to help make an impact on budding engineers in Kentucky.

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