Where can you find a 3D-printed prosthetic hand, a floating concrete canoe and a self-driving car?
These and a plethora of other exhibits greeted a group of Springfield, Illinois-area middle- and high-school students April 9 at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign’s annual Engineering Open House (EOH). Accompanied by Hanson employees and mentors from organizations including the Springfield Urban League and the Springfield chapter of Frontiers International, the students explored the diverse world of technology at the university’s Grainger College of Engineering.
Hanson helped organize the seventh Grow Our Own Minority Participation Program trip to the EOH, following a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Partnering with the city of Springfield and Sangamon County, Grow Our Own educates and aims to employ minority youth in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) careers. The program was born in 2013 from a need for more local minority and disadvantaged business owners to participate in the Springfield Rail Improvements Project. Since its inception, the leaders behind Grow Our Own have recognized that investing in Springfield’s young minority talent enhances the community.
“The Grow Our Own program provides access to mentors and related events that may allow students to pursue an education or career paths in areas that they might otherwise never be exposed to,” said Kevin Seals, Hanson’s chief environmental scientist, who manages the program. “Students’ attention and interest at the Engineering Open House reaffirms our goal that this program is worthwhile in its potential to open doors for young people who want to start a path to an engineering career.”
Mardell Daniels, a senior at Springfield High School who participated in the EOH trip, said he was inspired by exhibits that featured drones and robotic arms. When asked how he would change the world with engineering knowledge, he said, “I would improve neighborhoods by making them safer for kids. I would make a creation that kids can play with to learn about engineering and life, like a hologram of me giving them advice about the future.”
Preserving the environment is a priority for Southeast High School senior Kendall Bradley, whose vision for the future is creating a safe and healthy environment with scrap metals, rather than using the Earth’s resources. “I want everyone to be safe,” Kendall said, “but I also look at the bigger picture and believe some of the things we throw away can be used to create new-and-improved structures.
“I notice the infrastructure in my own city,” he added, “and I know we as a community can do much better, so I would hope, as a future engineer, to be able to create, develop and even fix some of our local buildings.”
Teresa Mazzini, a talent development consultant for Hanson, was excited to see the quality of the Grow Our Own students’ engagement with the University of Illinois students. “I think we have some engineers in the making,” she said. “They took advantage of the opportunity to ask questions and participate in the demonstrations. Several students expressed an interest in pursuing engineering as a career. This trip opens the door for a lot of conversation about the importance of the students staying focused on their education, as well as setting long-term academic goals.”
For more information about the Grow Our Own program, contact Kevin Seals at firstname.lastname@example.org.