Kids Explore Explosives Safety
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville participated in the annual Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) Fair at Mill Creek Elementary School in Madison, Alabama, Nov. 10.
The event was held to promote student interest in many science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, as well as arts fields, which include graphic arts and photography.
Huntsville Center Structural Engineer John Nevels, Directorate of Engineering, volunteered to set up an Explosives Safety exhibit for more than 500 students. A video demonstrating blast effects helped draw students to the Corps’ STEAM Fair table, where Nevels explained his role in the Explosives Safety Program.
“Protective construction is more my lane,” Nevels said. “To do that you have to protect people from overpressure, the blast; thermal effects, the fire ball; and primary and secondary fragments. Primary fragments are stuff that is attached to the explosives. Secondary fragments, or debris, is when the building blows up.”
Nevels’ exhibit included a cannonball and a primary fragment from previous blast demonstrations that the students were able to touch.
Mill Creek fifth-grader Brian Johnson enjoys math and science and was inspired by Nevels’ video and explanation of his career field. After visiting the table several times, Johnson said he plans to be a structural engineer when he grows up.
“I really like to see things blow up, and I also like to build stuff because when I was younger I liked to build with Legos,” Johnson said.
Sparking interest with students like Johnson is why Nevels enjoys participating in STEM outreach events.
“It’s important to support STEM events for children because they are the ones that will take all of our respective fields to the next level,” Nevels said. “They are the ones that will carry on and advance what we do in our careers, keeping us at the cutting edge as a nation. We’ve got to keep them interested, and hopefully these STEM events can help out with that.”
Nevels said he also likes to show people that engineering is more than just number crunching and computers.
“There’s a real-world side of what we do, and some of the applications of our work are pretty interesting to most people,” Nevels said. “I like to see students’ eyes get a little wider when they see that there are some cool sides of STEM fields.”
Volunteers like Nevels make STEM events such as the Mill Creek STEM/STEAM fair successful, said Jacqueline Smith, fifth and sixth grade STEM Lab teacher.
“This was a priceless experience that will hopefully inspire our students to explore a career in a STEM/STEAM-based field,” Smith said.
STEAM outreach events are successful because students sometimes need to see the practical application of how things are done to think they can do it, Smith said.
“They get to see real life examples of how people use STEM in their everyday work. They get to see all the ways that STEM is used throughout the world,” she said. “It gives them a positive boost that helps them want to learn more about it, makes them want to do their homework and makes them want to find out things based in science, technology, engineering and math.”