The highlight of the evening was meeting FIRSTpresident Jon
Dudas and astronaut Leland Melvin, both of whom spent time with students and signed autographs – in the case of Jon Dudas, on everything from team shirts to team members foreheads!
It was a great opportunity for teams to showcase their work and introduce FIRST to the business community. For many in attendance, it was their first introduction to the FIRST STEM program. They examined robots big and small, browsed through engineering notebooks, looked at CAD designs, watched team videos and heard first-hand from students, who sent a clear and powerful message that FIRST ROCKS! And it also churns out some incredibly accomplished young engineers!
We enjoyed a remarkable tour of the deep foundation preparation firm, Coastal Caisson, this morning. Recently relocated right in our neck of the Florida woods, in Odessa, in Pasco county, Coastal Caisson provides foundation solutions all across the southeast.
We learned about everything from the different types of engineering fields employed by the company – civil, mechanical, geological, industrial, and materials, to name a few — to how the company makes parts for, repairs and maintains all its own equipment — and it’s enormous equipment! — to the various forms of foundational solutions they use to meet different construction needs.
We especially enjoyed meeting East Lake High School intern, Mark Wahnish, son of Paul Wahnish, of the Career Technical Education Foundation, and an occasional, and always noble, FTC opponent with his East Lake team, Team Krunch. Mark has been helping with Coastal Caisson’s geothermal energy project.
Among Coastal Caisson’s developments is the technology to build underground
structures in Florida — a real challenge if you know anything about Florida and our close to the surface water table. We descended into a prototype model complete with a spiral staircase and rich with possible uses as anything from a basement, to a hurricane shelter to a water storage unit.
Thanks, Coastal Caisson, for a deeply educational and inspiring visit. We’ll never look at big foundation services equipment the same way again!
Some Team Duct Tape members joined FWCS-ASME engineers for their monthly dinner meeting which, this month, featured Paul Wahnish of the Career Technical Education Foundation. Mr. Wahnish, whose work with FIRST in Florida includes the annual off-season event, Tempest ‘n Tampa and East Lake High School’s Robotics Boosters programs, gave a great overview of the importance of high quality technical education for youth.
Among the many attention getting facts and figures Mr. Wahnish shared with us were these:
- The Gates Foundation found that nearly 90% of high school drop outs had passing grades
- Barely 50% of students who enter college graduate after six years
- Students often feel disengaged by academics when they can’t see the relevance or an obvious application of theory in what they’re being taught.
And yet, he pointed out, manufacturing is big business in Florida, accounting for:
- 400,000 employees
- $35.6 Billion of Florida’s gross product
- High paying and
- Growing – with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting that by 2016, the state of Florida will be seeking34,000 engineering technicians, 9,400 mechanical engineers and 43,000 industrial and manufacturing engineers.
Mr. Wahnish’s CTEF programs include Project Lead the Way efforts at schools in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco Counties, and partnerships with companies like Coastal Caisson in Odessa, organizations like FIRST robotics, and colleges and universities like the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg College and others to bring STEM educational, apprenticeship and internship opportunities to youth throughout the area.
In closing, Mr. Wahnish asked, “Do we want to leave a legacy of change or one of status quo?”
The answer, he said, is to offer a “Footprint of Sustainability,” creating an educated populace to help meet our growing economic and competitive needs in the technology sector.
He urged ASME engineers to “take a stand and make a difference.”
And they are! FWCS-ASME president, Mr. Pete Grotsky, once again offered the organization’s support of Team Duct Tape in the 2009-10 season. McCormick Stevenson engineers, who were present at the meeting, are also supporting Team Duct Tape with their generous donation of two days worth of ProE training. And we were delighted to make the acquaintance of Mr. Bryan Kamm, of Coastal Caisson, which provides deep foundation services for the construction industry.
As always, an evening with the Florida West Coast Section of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers was rewarding, educationally and socially. Our enduring thanks to FWCS-ASME for always being so welcoming, encouraging and supportive of Team Duct Tape, and of all youth in the Tampa Bay area interested in science and technology.