Supporting Discover Engineering Family Day in D.C.

In support of Engineers Week, the D.C. Metro Community Investment team participated in our second annual Discover Engineering Family Day event at the National Building Museum in late February. Our exhibit was entitled “Waterway Shipping in the 21st Century” and featured a small prototype of a canal lock system using a fish tank, supply piping and a pump to simulate transit of vessels through the chambers of the Panama Canal. The children constructed small boats using aluminum foil and tested the lock system as we filled the chambers to lift the boats from one chamber to the next.

Thanks to Alicia Johns, Jason Cawrse, Daniel Carawan, Kim Watkins, Emily Grenzke, Andy Bogdanski, Dan Lavoie, Dorian Hemming, Keisha Voigt and Scott Weikert for their hard work in sharing buoyancy principles and lock operation with some 9,100 attendees at the event.

This event was featured in the March 10, 2013 Washington Post Kid’s Post section in a story focusing on a local Girls Excelling in Math and Science (GEMS) program which is closely aligned with CH2M HILL’s emphasis on STEM events.

Trebuchet Toss in San Antonio

By Judith Ibarra-Bianchetta, PE, CFM
CH2M HILL South Texas Area Manager who wears multiple hats with the firm, including Project Manger and Operations Lead. She entered the field of engineering because of events similar to EWeek’s Engineer for the Day program and feels passionately about giving back to the community. 

I was part of a local office team that hosted 10 students from a local STEM high school for the day- all very interested in becoming engineers. We took them on a tour of a wastewater treatment plant that recycles and uses sustainable design principles as part of the everyday functioning of the plant.

Afterwards, we brought the students to our office to hear presentations from different engineers in the office which included their “words of wisdom.” The students all asked fascinating questions, including: Do you travel much?  Do you move up quicker in the private or public fields? How much money do you make (which is pretty much a regular question year-after-year).

The students turned these materials into a Trebuchet.

The presenters talked about the importance of teamwork. So with that, we broke the students into groups of four for a Trebuchet Toss competition by which the students had to build a Trebuchet from everyday household items. The contest was judged by who could land a marshmallow in the pie crust taking into account both accuracy and length. The interesting part of the competition was listening to the different teams discuss their strategy. In their high school, their teachers place them as a project manager, schedule manager or a technical lead. So naturally, they formed teams according to who was their friend not considering their possible team strengths – maybe because their teacher wasn’t around to tell them! Anyhow, the team that took the longest to complete the challenge and really wasn’t able to launch the marshmallow at all was the team that consisted of all project managers – all telling each other what to do. The team that was first to complete the challenge and launch the marshmallow accurately had a good mix of abilities. Imagine that!

Listening to them discuss their plan of attack and their conversations always reminds me of the good old days of being in high school and not really knowing what the future holds. Now that I look back at that time it makes participating in these events even more of a priority for me to continue to be involved and influence the young students about continuing in math and science related studies. They really need all the encouragement they can get. Majority of the students that participate in this program are very interested during the day and of course there are a couple that are just happy to be out of school for the day.  But for the most part, the students have difficultly leaving the office and want to continue to interact with us – with some students even some asking for a job. The students asking questions make me think that the time I have spent with them has been influential and beneficial to them. This brings me a lot of energy and fuels me to continue to keep participating in the program as these programs were instrumental for me to become an engineer in first place.


Building water filtration systems in Georgia

Since 1997 CH2M HILL has supported the National Engineers Week’s Foundation (EWeek) as the firm’s flagship science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education outreach program. Each February hundreds of employees from CH2M HILL offices across North America volunteer their time to serve as mentors, teachers, and judges in a variety of activities, including engineering competitions, technology and science fairs, classroom presentations, hands-on activities, and project site visits. By engaging students in activities that help them understand how science, math, and technology can be used to solve real world problems and make a difference in society, CH2M HILL is helping to inspire the next generation of engineers.

Inspiring the next generation at Radloff Middle School in Georgia

Check out videos of students at Radloff Middle School in Georgia making their own water filtration system during an EWeek event. Read what students took away from this engineering lesson at Thanks Frank Destadio, a program manager in our water group, for representing CH2M HILL to help inspire the next generation!

Inspiring future leaders in the Buckeye state

By Jamie Decker, PE

CH2M HILL Civil Engineer and Project Manager for Water Business Group – Asset Management

CH2M HILL provided 12 volunteers to the Ohio Regional Future City competition this year. Volunteers included members of the our water, environmental and operations management groups who helped with tasks such as the preliminary, special award and final round judging as well as timekeeping and general coordination of the Ohio event. Three people from the Columbus office also had the privilege of mentoring two schools in Ohio: Columbus Buckeye Middle School and Westerville Walnut Springs Middle School (I was lucky to help mentor both schools). Employees in our Cincinnati office were also able to help Batavia Middle School by answering some engineering questions and setting up a tour of a Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati wastewater treatment plant.

Future City has provided a great opportunity for me to contribute to my community and make an impact for the next generation of engineers. Being a mentor, it was incredible to see the light bulb go on for many students as they learned and better understood different engineering principles such as structural design, stormwater management, water treatment and sustainability. I was truly amazed at the creativity and depth of knowledge of the middle school students at the regional competition!

Volunteers also appreciated the opportunity to participate and had a great time. Kenna Coltman, PE and an environmental compliance specialist with the CH2M HILL FSG GE Program in Ohio shared, “I truly enjoyed judging the special award. The kids were amazing and the work and imagination that went into some of the models was staggering. Next year I’m hoping to encourage a local team to allow me the privilege of becoming involved as an engineer mentor. I think it is a truly great program for promoting engineering as a career.”

Personally I had a great time and I am looking forward to helping out next year!


Providing multi-faceted support to Georgia competition

CH2M HILL served as a platinum sponsor for the Georgia Regional Future Cities competition held on January 26, 2013 at Southern Polytechnic State University. As one of the largest regional competitions, the Georgia event attracted 104 teams from 29 middle schools.

Employees were excited to support this event to inspire the next generation of innovators and city leaders with a total of 15 CH2M HILL employees from the Atlanta offices volunteering with the program through team mentoring, judging and volunteering the day of the competition.

“Both my wife, an interior designer, and I, an architect, volunteered for this event not knowing what we were getting ourselves into. It was a fun-filled morning that was not only enlightening but also educational. It is really amazing what middle school students learn these days. The student’s enthusiasm, thoughts, imagination and ideas for what a future city of 150 years out would be like were just amazing. It was a fun experience and we as architects, interior designers, engineers, and professionals should get more involved to support these children, after all they are The Children of the Future,” shared volunteer Jan Wisniewski.

Atlanta staff examine the model from Queen of Angels Catholic School in Roswell.

Cindy Miller, a mentor for a team from Queen of Angels Catholic School in Roswell, Georgia arranged for her team to meet CH2M HILL water engineers in the Atlanta office beforehand to present their city and prepare for the competition.




Close-up of the city model from Queen of Angels Catholic School in Roswell.

Special awards judging

CH2M HILL sponsored three awards at the competition: Most Holistic Approach, Best Research Essay and Best Management of Water Resources.

“As a special awards judge, I was able to meet the student competitors, witness their presentation skills, acknowledge the parents and proud coaches standing by and interact with members of my business group that I had not yet met. It always gives me amazing pride and delight to see the perseverance and experience the brilliance of each child – knowing that my future will be that much more sustainable with minds like that at the helm,” shared Maia Watkins.

Saint Theresa School received the award for Best Management of Water Resources.

“The experience of judging was very rewarding as a person and professionally. It was wonderful to witness students with such knowledge and enthusiasm around the technical aspects of city operations. I am looking forward to participating again next year,” said Tami Hamilin.


Proving real-world context at the finals

David Bell in the Water Business Group served as a finalist judge and spoke to the students prior to final judging about CH2M HILL and the importance of storm water management in city planning now and in the future.

“It was a great experience and very impressive to see the creative talent pool that is coming down the pipeline,” David said. “These kids are smart and can think very holistically about to how to solve complex problems. It was also great to see the teamwork involved to prepare their models and their presentations.”

Can’t volunteer at the competition, there are plenty of opportunities to support Future City

Employees also appreciated the opportunity to support Future City in advance of the final competition day. The city model and presentations are one and two of the five components, with the Virtual City Design, Research Essay (this year’s theme was Rethink Runoff), and City Narrative making up 190 of the total 400 possible points for each team.

The award for best research essay went to Snellville Middle School.

“As far as encouraging others, I would highlight that the role I played (as an essay and city narrative judge) allowed me to invest a handful of hours over a 2- to 3-week period at my convenience. It gives you the satisfaction of supporting the program without worrying whether it will fit into your schedule. The essays and narratives were very interesting and made me see the importance of exposing these young students to real issues and mentors who have science, technology and engineering experience,” said volunteer Frank Smith.

Engineer Nick Gritz added, “While acting as a judge for the SimCity models I was blown away by the amount of detail and design that went into the simulation. The students had to consider city zoning, different ways to generate power, and waste recycling.”

Thank you to all the Atlanta area employees who volunteered to support Future City:

  • Heather Bowman
  • Thomas Ross
  • Betty Wood
  • Susan Canon
  • Maia Watkins
  • Kevin Middlebrooks
  • Jan Wisniewski
  • Irene Nath
  • Nick Gritz
  • Frank Smith
  • David Bell
  • Paige Horton
  • Angela Barch
  • Tami Hanlin
  • Bethany Myers
  • Cindy Miller