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Georgia Power, CHS collaborate on Engineers Week project

Representatives from Georgia Power Co. gave Cartersville High School students a little taste of what it's like to be an engineer.

To celebrate National Engineers Week, volunteers from Plant Bowen, Plant Hammond and Georgia Power’s employee resource group, Technical Women in Georgia, visited the school Feb. 23 for an engineering activity in which teams of students built and tested a catapult for a chance to win the grand prize.

"Georgia Power celebrates the hard work of engineers yearlong and during Engineers Week by bringing engineering to life for kids, educators and parents," GPC spokeswoman Ashley West said. "Through initiatives such as Engineers Week, the company emphasizes the importance of math, science, electric safety and energy efficiency for the state's students. Georgia Power's commitment to education also focuses on building awareness around energy careers, which helps the company recruit a quality workforce of engineers, line workers and other highly skilled employees."

Engineering technology teacher Kenya Rowser thought the event, which Georgia Power hosted for the second year at CHS, was both educational and enjoyable for the students.

"Celebrating National Engineers Week and culminating it with an event such as this is a great way to not only engage the students in STEM-based learning but also get them excited about pursuing a career in this field," she said, noting more than 80 students participated in a bridge-building exercise last year. "The GPC team came to conduct an activity, but they also inspired the students by making themselves available for questions about their perennial experiences as engineers and scientists."  

During the two 50-minute lunch-period sessions, students worked closely with the volunteers to design and build catapults using Popsicle sticks, wood blocks, rubber bands, bottle caps, pencils, paper clips, springs, paper, tin cans, aluminum cans, toilet paper/paper towel cardboard tubes, plastic cups, yarn/string, straws, wood dowels, wood wheels, fishing weights and clothespins while also enjoying pizza provided by the cafeteria staff.

The 100-plus students from all grade levels as well as the robotics team were divided into teams of four or five for the activity called The Right Target, Rowser said.

"The activity involved designing and building a catapult using common household items," she said. "Each team of students [was] given a budget to purchase these items from the building-supply store — a table set up in the room. Once the teams procured all of the items they wanted to incorporate into their design, they were given a limited amount of time to build their catapult before testing them."

To test the precision and accuracy of the catapults, teams used them to launch pingpong balls "as strategically as possible" at bull's-eye targets set up around the room, Rowser said.

"Each level on the target board equated to a certain point value," she said. "The team which earned the most points received GPC duffle bags packed with cool STEM-related items for the students to enjoy."  

West called the event "a success" and said the students "really enjoyed the activities and opportunity to experience the engineering-design process using materials found at home."

"The students that were involved in our Engineers Week event were eager to build the catapults and analyze the characteristics of the winning catapult," she said, noting Georgia Power is "looking forward" to working with CHS students again soon. "After the activity, students were able to explain the meaning of potential and kinetic energy, projectile motion, accuracy and precision." 

Rowser said she appreciated Viola Martinez and the Georgia Power representatives "sharing their knowledge and skills with the students of CHS."

"At the end of the activity, one student asked me, 'Can they come again next week?'" she said. "I laughed in response; however, his question indicated to me that this was worth doing. Celebrating creativity, innovation and design is my passion. I hope to continue to partner with companies like GPC and others to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists."

West said getting Georgia Power representatives into classrooms throughout the year is part of the company’s signature energy education program called Learning Power.

"The Learning Power program places education coordinators in schools to provide customized curriculums and materials at no cost and present STEM-related lessons that involve hands-on activities highlighting energy basics such as simple circuits and energy efficiency," she said.