HNTB Continues Commitment to STEM Education Through Successful Second Year of SPARK Program
CHICAGO, IL HNTB Corporation, an infrastructure solutions firm, and Chicago Public Schools, recently completed the second year of a successful on-going partnership to support and grow student interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) through the firm's SPARK program.
Started by HNTB in 2015, SPARK focuses on providing students with a curriculum that combines hands-on activities within the world of design, construction and engineering along with site visits to high-profile infrastructure projects throughout Chicago, Illinois. SPARK is part of a larger effort by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Public Schools External Partnerships Office to promote learning opportunities in STEM.
"By creating new opportunities to learn math and science in and outside of school, we are providing Chicago's students with the tools they need to become the next leaders in the 21st century highly-specialized, technical economy," said Mayor Emanuel. "HNTB is committed to increasing access to high-quality STEM education for our children as they seek out the most competitive jobs and lead our next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs."
"As engineering professionals, it is our responsibility to show our youth the many possibilities and opportunities that exist through STEM," said Amar Rajpurkar, HNTB Illinois Office Leader and Vice President. "HNTB is proud to work collaboratively with Chicago Public Schools to develop the next generation of great engineers so we have the workforce necessary to continue building and maintaining Chicago's infrastructure."
During the past spring semester, 20 students from Dr. Martin Luther King Junior College Preparatory High School participated in SPARK and had the opportunity to visit multiple project sites including: Chicago Transit Authority's Wilson Station, currently undergoing reconstruction; Chicago Department of Transportation's Navy Pier Lakefront Trail project; and a Jardine Water Plant tour led by the Chicago Department of Water Management. Site visits were supplemented by hands-on learning opportunities at HNTB's Chicago office that focused on engineering principles such as project planning and staging as well as learning about the basics of building complex structures, which included the students participating in a bridge-building competition.
"We make it a priority to challenge these students by giving them an opportunity to put the principals we are teaching into practice," said Mara Kosir, PE, who leads HNTB's SPARK efforts in Chicago. "By placing students into the same types of situations faced by professional engineers every day, we're providing an opportunity to develop problem-solving skills so they can work as a team to understand the process for finding solutions to complex situations."
King College Prep is a selective enrollment high school that offers an engineering specialization program for students. SPARK was designed to maximize the learning in the classroom with active participation from professionals in the field.
"The partnership with HNTB has been nothing less than dynamic for our students," said Lynda Parker, King College Prep Assistant Principal. "Each experience has been rich and hands-on, allowing our students to fully investigate the many facets of the world of engineering. This level of access is one that our students would never have had without this collaboration with HNTB."