Did you know that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the largest employer of engineers in the world? 37,000 civilian and military engineers under this one umbrella!
Katie Bates, a young, spirited, hilarious civil engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers spoke to a group of teens and parents, professionals and teachers gathered for the April Beaver County STEM meeting. She shared stories of school, her decision to go into engineering and an internship opportunity that helped her decide she didn’t want to be a ‘behind the desk’ engineer. She switched her major to civil engineering and proudly showed off picture of working at a local dam and helping the New York and New Jersey shores dig out from under Hurricane Sandy.
Kevin Logan, PMP, the Chief of the Project Management Section began the talk with an overview of this impressive organization. The presentation included statistics of the USACE around the world and in the Pittsburgh region (640 employees serving 5.5 million people, preventing $13 billion in flood damages, managing 23 navigational locks and dams, 10 significant river systems, and millions of recreational visits every year).
One of the most impressive engineering feats was Logan’s description of the building of the Braddock Dam. The Pittsburgh District, for the first time in civil engineering history, created a dam using innovative “in-the-wet” construction technology. An inland navigation dam was created using float-in technology in which two massive concrete dam segments were fabricated on land along the Ohio river in Leetsdale. The construction site was flooded and the segments were launched, floated into place and submerged onto a previously constructed large diameter drilled shaft foundation.
Logan pointed out that there are quite a few repairs and projects needed in our region and that innovation and engineering skills will be crucial for our future. The USACE is committed to recruit and train young engineers. The U.S. projection is that there will be 2.8 million jobs for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) professionals and yet not enough people to fill these roles. The U.S. is no longer the premiere destination to attract foreign engineers, and so we must pull from our own students and schools. The ladder to STEM professions begins with higher mathematics in 7th, 8th and 9th grade. Currently, only 4 in 100 college graduates are engineers (versus 10 of 100 in Russia and 31 of 100 in China). Statistics regarding women, African American and Hispanic minorities are even more distressing.
In response, the US Army Corps of Engineers provides mentors for science and engineering fairs as well as engineering projects and competitions such as the Balsa Wood Bridge Building competition and eCybermission. The Society for Military Engineers offers construction and engineering summer camps for high school students (click for information on full scholarships!). In January, the U.S. Army unveiled their new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Asset Vehicle designed for recruiting civilian scientists (I’ll let you know if we’re successful getting it to come to Beaver County!).
Katie stressed the importance of internships, both with the corps and elsewhere. Search for an internship by going to usajobs.gov and search the bottom menu for “Students and Recent Graduates.” A video explaining the Pathways program and links to further information on internships is available there. The information is broken down for students (college or high school students), recent graduates (associates degree or higher), and the Presidential Management Fellows Program (for advanced degree candidates).
I encourage you to surf, with your favorite engineering hopeful, some of the USACE videos and discuss what they think are the most important engineering issues of the future…