By Heather Sapp
I started as an intern with Goken America working part time with a client that focuses on tooling for large format plastic and sheet metal automotive parts. I was studying engineering education and this assignment was to map out the knowledge required at each phase of an associate’s career. After graduation, I took on additional responsibilities, but also continue the knowledge mapping engagements.
One day, I was talking to a coworker about my degree, and she mentioned how her daughter likes to play with “girl” toys even though she excels at math and science. I shared my college experience of visiting near by elementary schools and lead fun engineering activities to get them to explore STEM. Most student didn’t even know what engineers do for a living.
After the conversation, I kept coming back to how those STEM days could change someone’s life. It hit me that Goken’s family atmosphere would embrace this type of activity, and I had the skills to make it happen.
I started with a goal of a series of STEM Saturdays for Goken associates’ families. I knew I needed a budget, location, volunteers, and an agenda. I started with my goals.
My top goals were:
-Make STEM fun with critical thinking activities
-Engage with engineers to learn not just what the do, but how they think
-Help parents learn how to foster critical thinking in their children
-And to reiterate… make learning FUN!
The activities planned are similar to ones that I used in college and others that are easily found online. They included one of the simple machines – levers, making asphalt (no bake cookies), building a spaghetti tower, and learning how to communicate project details with Dots candy and toothpicks. These activities are great for grades 3-8.
I calculated the material costs for the experiments and snacks for everyone… we could do the whole event for less than $100!
I knew Goken’s headquarters had enough space, especially with our new addition, to give ample room for the four activities. It also has a break room where we can cook the asphalt (cookies). And finally, they might be able to see some of our engineers working.
I contacted Alex Brickley who coordinates all of our internal events for help. We built a proposal and presented it to the leadership team. It was enthusiastically accepted. Alex also helped by coordinating with our corporate lawyer to make sure we had the appropriate consent forms.
Alex took our plan and sent out an invite to everyone at Goken. This included a call for volunteers. The response was great. We had more than two volunteers for each activity plus a few people to help guide the attendees around the office.
On the Friday before the event, all of the volunteers got together to learn their responsibilities, see all of the activities, go over the schedule, prepare the office space and enjoy pizza. I was sure we had a good team when I watched how much fun they had playing with each experiment… including trying to knock down spaghetti towers with the catapults from the lever experiment.
On the day of the event, we had 16 children that fit well into four age-specific groups. In two hours, they participated in each of events and really learned more about STEM. We were able to finish with a special surprise. Our secure tech center had a few engineers working that Saturday. We were allowed access, after all sensitive information was put away, and got to talk to some of our senior engineers and see how they used Catia.
All day the kids asked great questions, solved problems with unique solutions, and seemed to have fun. Mission accomplished. I also know that the volunteers had as much fun, if not more, than the kids. I know I did.
One of the most memorable conversation I had was with a new Goken associate. She recently transferred to Goken from a staffing company. She mentioned that the staffing company only contacted her when they had a question on her timesheet. At Goken, she has been welcomed by numerous people and every day she meets someone new. She was so happy that she was able to participate in this event with her son and one of his friends. That’s what this is all about.