Making a Difference for the Next Generation

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Tags: Bridge

At Michael Baker International, We Make a Difference. Our credo extends beyond the work we do on a day-to-day basis and into the communities we serve. One way we do this is by engaging in programming that allows students to explore STEM careers, concepts, and give them real world learning and problem-solving skills. 

As I look back on my time as a student, I was always interested in the built environment and had a love for math, so the engineering profession was an easy choice for me. I was fascinated with how things were built and loved watching construction sites but did not have this kind of opportunity in my school growing up, and so I wholeheartedly support hands-on STEM experiences.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, engineering occupations are projected to add 136,500 jobs over the next decade, including 53,700 civil engineering jobs – the most of any engineering occupation. The future of our industry – and our nation’s infrastructure – depends on these students and as current practitioners, we must do all we can to nurture their natural curiosity and encourage the pursuit of STEM careers for those interested in them.  

During the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Spring Meeting, I saw this philosophy and dedication to the next generation in action. Michael Baker has been a sponsor of AASHTO’s educational outreach programs, TRAC (Transportation and Civil Engineering) & RIDES (Roadways In Developing Elementary Students), for nearly a decade and at this year’s event, our firm sponsored the AASHTO Bridge Challenge event.

Prior to the Annual meeting, students from across the country participated in the TRAC Module Bridge Builder in their own schools and students designed and built a scaled model bridge according to grade level specifications in AASHTO guidelines. Eighty-six portfolios describing the process, challenges, data, graphs and scaled technical drawings of their bridges were submitted to engineers for review. Eighteen team finalists, six from each grade level, were invited to the AASHTO Bridge Challenge hosted at the AASHTO Spring Meeting to compete for top prizes. Michael Baker’s contribution allowed 33 event participants to travel to Seattle, Washington, to participate in the AASHTO Bridge Challenge.

I was honored to participate in this event as a judge. These competitions encourage not only learning about bridge design and construction, but also include other important life skills such as schedule and time management, group collaboration and written and oral presentation skills that will serve the participants well. The participating students had the opportunity to do a deeper dive into topics that are not ordinarily explored in a typical class setting. These experiences give students the ability to create, design, test and improve on their ideas and concepts. I am proud of our association and sponsorship of events like TRAC and RIDES.  It does take a commitment of time from the students, but without the support of those currently in the industry, these types of programs would not be possible.

As an individual, and as part of our company, I look forward to encouraging our next generation of innovators – some of which might just Make a Difference at Michael Baker someday.   



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