When I decided to study engineering, I knew that I liked science and I liked to build things, and that engineering probably included these things. I wasn't completely wrong, but certainly misguided, and it's an experience I've heard from many of my fellow engineers. If there isn't an engineer in your life, you likely have little understanding of what engineers do in general, and even less about specific subdomains. Part of the solution to this problem must surely be for engineers to engage with the public and serve as the source of this knowledge. This is the purpose of BWXT's Engineering Mentoring program, to engage working engineers with high school students in a hands-on way, through the completion of a small engineering project.
Vector Space partnered with BWXT for the second time this fall, with the goal of bringing fresh and exciting educational experiences to this year's cohort. For this semester's project, we chose to build modular performance stages. The Academy Center of the Arts served as our mock customer, providing students with a rider typical to a performance they would host, with design specifications clearly laid out for our budding engineers. These included a budget, striction dimensional accuracy, and a minimum load requirement of 150 lb/sqft. Students worked in teams of four, each guided by an engineering mentor to first design a stage on paper that met these requirements, then build a small scale prototype from basswood, followed by the full scale build from construction lumber, and finally inspection and load testing.
Though I was looking forward to destroying all of the student built stages with a mechanical press, they all withstood the maximum 2,500 pounds of force over a 2 foot square, far exceeding the load requirements. Next time I won't underestimate their engineering abilities.
This project was made possible by the Future Focus Foundation, BWXT, and Framatome.