| For Immediate Release: |
May 22, 2006
CONTACT: Donald Lehr
The Nolan/Lehr Group
(212) 967-8200 / email@example.com
For Future City Mentors, A Refresher On The Joys Of Engineering
The word rejuvenate comes from the Latin “young again.” Appropriately enough, that is precisely the word Jane Sternemann uses to describe the benefits of volunteering as an engineer mentor in the National Engineers Week Future City CompetitionTM. Mentors say the experience provides them with a fresh perspective on their profession, a perspective only the young can offer.
“Future City rejuvenates me,” says Sternemann, when asked why she takes time from her job as engineering group manager at General Motors’ Vehicle Safety and Crashworthiness Integration program in Warren, Michigan. “When you’ve been in engineering a long time – I’ve been in the crash area for 17 years – it can get a little old. My interaction and connection with these kids rejuvenates me.”
Stefan Gantert, PE, a civil engineer with the Rice County, Minnesota highway department, has a similar take on the power of seventh- and eighth-graders. “Too often we get stuck in a rut of doing things the same way over and over,” he says, “when a little creativity might lead to great things. These students remind me that it’s good to dream as long as you base the ideas in reality.”
Sternemann and Gantert are among hundreds of engineers who volunteer in the annual Future City Competition, the nation’s largest and most successful not-for-profit engineering education program. Students work with a teacher and mentor as they create cities of tomorrow using SimCity 3000, build a large, 3-D tabletop model, write an essay, and create an oral presentation. More than 30,000 students from 1,100 schools participated in Future City in 2006. Winning teams from 38 regional competitions receive an all-expense-paid trip to the National Finals in Washington, D.C., February 19-21, 2007, during Engineers Week, co-chaired by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and Tyco Electronics.
The efforts of engineer mentors such as Sternemann and Gantert have clearly paid off for their Future City students. Gantert’s team from Chippewa Middle School in Shoreview, Minnesota won the 2006 national championship and Sternemann’s team from St. John's Lutheran School in Rochester, Michigan, finished in third place. But, they stress that the rewards extend further.
Sternemann points out that, as a manager, she sometimes deals with people who “think they know everything,” an attitude she says commonly strays from reality. “You might think you’re thinking outside the box,” she explains, “but your mind is closed. In Future City, your mind is open. You’re free to think. With kids you get a lot of ‘what if?’”
Professional engineers too often hold themselves back, she says, because they mistakenly believe they’ve pushed the envelope as far as it will go. “Sometimes the perceived limitations are not really there, but people think they are.”
That broader frame of reference is also good for the companies where mentors work, says Gantert. “Companies enrich their workforce by encouraging employees to mentor,” he says. “By sharing their career experiences, mentors' passion for their work is renewed.”
In turn, he says, “Employees bring Future City back to the office and put it to good use. These students may be the graduates we will hire in the future. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
“Once engineers volunteer as mentors, they’re convinced of the program’s tremendous value, and they come back year after year,” says Future City National Director Carol Rieg. “Companies encourage them to return because of the advantages it offers their workers, their community and their corporate interests.”
There’s also a dividend for engineering itself: a new generation becomes familiar with a profession that is often a mystery to them, says Bill Brooks of Brooks Fire Protection Engineering, Inc, who mentored the 2004 National Champs, Riverview Junior/Senior High School in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. “Students learn that society benefits from engineering in so many ways,” he says. “Prior to Future City I doubt any of the students had an appreciation for engineering, particularly how each of the varied disciplines fits into everything we do. They learn teamwork skills that engineers need to complete projects, since no one is able to make something happen individually. Successful teams get things done by working together with common goals.”
While acknowledging the advantages Future City brings to students, and how it advances the interests of the profession and strengthens the character of engineers and their companies, Sternemann adds another, even bigger issue. “You’re benefiting society,” she says. “You’re making a better world.”
For more information on how to mentor a Future City team in one of 38 regions nationwide, contact Future City National Director Carol Rieg at (877) 636-9578 or CRieg@futurecity.org, or visit www.futurecity.org and click on "Register / Register as an Engineer." Engineers will be contacted by their area's regional coordinator.
In Brief: The National Engineers Week Future City CompetitionTM seeks engineers from every field to volunteer this fall and winter to introduce middle school students across the nation to a career in engineering. Since its founding in 1992, the educational program has made engineering come alive for hundreds of thousands of students. For information on becoming a volunteer mentor, contact Future City National Director Carol Rieg at (877) 636-9578 or CRieg@futurecity.org, or visit www.futurecity.org and click on "Register / Register as an Engineer." Engineers will be contacted by their area's regional coordinator.