SSOE’s program provides glimpse at possible careers

33 high school students become engineers for a day

2/21/2013
BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Ed McConnell, a master engineer with SSOE Group, talks with a group of students as they attempt to create a working electric motor. ‘Everybody’s different in the way they see things,’ he said. ‘This helps to make it real for them.’
Ed McConnell, a master engineer with SSOE Group, talks with a group of students as they attempt to create a working electric motor. ‘Everybody’s different in the way they see things,’ he said. ‘This helps to make it real for them.’

Running off a D Cell battery, the small electric motor that students made at SSOE Group’s Engineer for the Day program isn’t that powerful from a practical standpoint. There’s just enough charge to spin a small wire coil.

But if that small motor gets someone interested in an engineering career, it might be a far more useful tool than it seems.

And getting people interested is the idea of the annual program, which SSOE hosts as part of National Engineers Week. Thirty-three high school students attended Wednesday, coming from Anthony Wayne, Bowsher, Fostoria, and Swanton high schools.

“I hope all of them turn into engineers,” said Evan Baker, a senior associate in SSOE’s data, fire, and security systems division. “I never had anything like this when I was in high school, and I think it would be a big help to open their eyes to what we really do and what kind of benefits we provide our clients.”

The program included presentations about several engineering disciplines. The idea, Mr. Baker said, is to show the teenagers the range of potential careers within engineering. He explained a little about how smoke alarms work, how data is transmitted via fiber optics, and the various ways engineers can design systems that can limit access to and within buildings for safety and security.

“We'll bring it down to their level and try to talk to them about the importance of it and how it protects people,” Mr. Baker said. “They’re all in schools, we do a lot of work for schools, so it’s something they see every day when it comes to security and data.”

SSOE has been hosting the program for more than a decade. Company officials say the program is a success if it helps just one student decide to pursue a career in engineering.

Deiondre’ Harold is already interested. “Lately I’ve been contemplating what I want to do, an X-ray tech or an engineer, but I’m considering mechanical right now,” the 18-year-old Bowsher student said. “It’s more of a hands-on thing.”

Jeremiah Operacz, a 16-year-old from Swanton, is focused more on computer engineering.

“I like computers and want to be around that the rest of my life,” he said. “It’s what interests me, and I figure it’s my best bet. [Being a] professional gamer’s just a little bit out there.”

Alec Martinez, 17, of Swanton peers at his group’s electric motor as they work to construct it using a battery, magnet, and wires during the SSOE Group’s annual Engineer for a Day program. The group talked with students from An­thony Wayne, Bow­sher, Fosto­ria, and Swan­ton high schools on Wednesday about opportunities in different types of engineering careers.
Alec Martinez, 17, of Swanton peers at his group’s electric motor as they work to construct it using a battery, magnet, and wires during the SSOE Group’s annual Engineer for a Day program. The group talked with students from An­thony Wayne, Bow­sher, Fosto­ria, and Swan­ton high schools on Wednesday about opportunities in different types of engineering careers.

SSOE split up the participants so they would be working with students from other schools — not just their friends — to encourage collaboration. The team Deiondre’ and Jeremiah were on won the challenge for building the motor, getting their coil spinning before any of the other teams.

Sitting next to them as the students worked was Luchauna Smith, a 15-year-old sophomore from Fostoria. She’s interested in psychology, but signed up to attend at her cousin’s urging.

“My cousin’s an engineer, so I just wanted to see what it was about,” she said, but didn’t know whether the hands-on experience was enough to change her mind.

Ed McConnell, a master engineer with SSOE and the leader of the motor-building exercise, said some students would catch on from lecture alone. But not all would. That’s why they add in the challenges.

“Everybody’s different in the way they see things,” he said. “This helps to make it real for them and to start to understand some of the principles.”

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.