Nine engineers from General Dynamics spent the day teaching the middle school students about engineering.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Engineer Jake Kalish is the type of person who learns better when he sees things in action.
On Friday when he stood in front of an 8th grade class at Reid Middle School, he sped through the lesson he was teaching about chemical reactions between salt water and magnesium and got right to the action.
He and eight other engineers from General Dynamics spent the day leading classes through building small cars that run on salt water and magnesium.
"It's always really nice to see what I learned about in practice," Kalish told the students.
The lesson in engineering and chemistry is part of General Dynamic's efforts to inspire students to pursue careers in the field. Each year, the company funds projects led by the employees to bring those lessons to the school as part of engineers' week.
"Engineering is a good career and General Dynamics would like local talent," said Mike Arace, a lead engineer who has headed projects at Reid Middle School for three years now.
Arace remembers attending workshops at General Electric when he was a child and that inspired him to go into the engineering field. With these projects, he hopes others will follow the same path.
This year it was Alyson Voltoline's classes the engineers taught. Throughout the day, the engineers led the class in the building of cars, teaching them about chemistry and energy. Arace said he works with the teacher each year to develop a lesson which ties in with what the students are learning.
"We tried to find a project with chemistry in it," Arace said. "We start planning in December."
Two years ago, Arace had a project to work with students to build mousetrap cars and last year it was rubber band propelled airplanes. The kits to build the cars were all funded through General Dynamics - and this year the entire project cost $1,700 to provide the materials and snacks for some 84 students.
Arace said his project was just one of 40 the company funded. General Dynamics asks the employees to think of projects and then have a committee decide which projects to actually fund.
"It is really nice they do this ... most of the [projects] are funded," Arace said, adding that this year he believes every proposal was funded.
The students built their cars, added the salt water, and then, of course, took them to the race track to test it out. The fun of racing the cars came with learning the science behind it.
At the end of the class, the engineers shared what they do as a career. For the systems engineer Kalish, he designs security systems for the military. Dan Greene is a mechanical engineer and he designs the individual pieces, according to specifications, to build it. Tia Damman, a manufacturing engineer, then puts it all together.
"We all work as a big team. We all use math and science," Greene told the class. "It all comes together in the end. These are systems that are protecting our country."
General Dynamics is now hoping in the future some of those students will be joining that team.
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