Shake, rattle and roll. No, it’s not the Elvis Presley song,
it’s the way Far East District engineers graded students during an earthquake
tower challenge at Seoul American Middle School.
“We are trying to introduce the students to engineering
principles,” said Doug Bliss, chief of the geotechnical and environmental
engineering branch. “In this case they’re doing dynamic loading of towers.
They’re learning engineering at a rudimentary level.”
The students’ towers were built out of straw, paper clips,
string and straight pins and tested to see how much shaking the structures
“These basic principles can be used for actual construction
and can build into later careers and building actual structures,” said Bliss.
Students had the opportunity to test their structures and go
back to the drawing board and re-design their towers, learning from their
mistakes if their towers collapsed.
“I learned that
symmetry helped make our building structurally sound,” said Jack Dillon,
eight-grade student at Seoul American Middle School. “You can’t have one side
be stronger than the other, so it all needs to be in sync.”
“The foundation failed because we didn’t have enough paper
clips so it fell over,” said Eric Byrd, eighth- grade student at Seoul American
Student Steven Masley said getting out of the classroom and
receiving hands-on experience from professional engineers was both educational
“It’s not about who wins, it’s about having fun,” said
Sparking an interest in engineering at a young age can also
help stem the slide of students who reject the field in college. In the 1970’s
40 percent of the world’s scientists and engineers resided in the U.S. Today
that number has shrunk to about 15 percent.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only five percent
of U.S. workers are employed in fields related to science and engineering, yet
they are responsible for more than 50 percent of our sustained economic
“These days the workforce is very technical so we want to
get the students interested early so perhaps they’ll have more opportunities to
compete in the global marketplace for jobs,” said Bliss. “The teachers and
students are hungry for real life examples which we can give them because we do
it every day.”
“They are being exposed to things scientists, chemists and
geologists do,” said Bliss. “That exposure might help them to decide to choose
this for a career.”
The tower competition is part of STEMed, a science,
technology, engineering and mathematics educational partnership between the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters and Department of Defense Dependent