Future Engineers—Inspired by Benesch

People | February 24, 2023


A photo with several images, one of students smiling in a classroom and another image of students in the field and students seated at a table working together

While Benesch employees all serve their community in unique ways, something many have in common is a commitment to helping kids discover a love for STEM.

This E-Week, we’re sharing a few examples of Benesch staff supporting STEM in their communities and inspiring future generations of engineers.

Volunteering at Local Events

For Shane Ryan, a project manager in Benesch’s Pottsville, PA office, existing community connections led him to volunteer with two organizations dedicated to fostering an interest in STEM among students.

Shane was joined by fellow Benesch employees Maura Bentz, Josh Howard, John Knecht, Jennifer Kowalonek and Becky Mairose to judge the Regional K’Nex STEM Design Challenge. Students from local schools were tasked with designing a solution to the challenge: improve our transportation systems. Teams created a design notebook, built prototypes made from K’Nex or other recyclable materials, and presented their solution to the judges.

“Seeing how out-of-the-box these students thought was really cool. They all dug into the challenge and found unique, sustainable transportation solutions,” recalled Shane.

Shane also put his expertise to use serving as a mentor for the students of the Minersville Area High School team as they prepared to compete in Sea, Air and Land Challenge, an Office of Naval Research sponsored program.

“I’ve been working with the kids weekly to help them prepare for the challenge,” said Shane. “It’s been awesome to work through their ideas with them and see the lightbulb go off as they figure things out. I’ve been very impressed!”

The challenge included designing a simulated rescue system that employs the use of a multirotor drone. The drone needed to be capable of navigating a course of QR codes which simulate radiated areas. The QR codes then needed to be interpreted by the team to determine if the drone’s payload was to be dropped on the target area. On competition day, the team came in first place, completing the course in great time and impressing the judges.

In Nashville, Project Manager Kenneth Perkins participated in “Success Saturday: Engineer Edition” sponsored by Elevated Development, an organization dedicated to closing the wealth gap. At the event, high school seniors were able to get an inside look at the engineering industry by speaking with local professionals. Kenneth shared his journey into the profession along with insight into the financial side of becoming an engineer.

A photo of students in a classroom seated smiling towards the camera with thumbs up
High school students from around Nashville gathered to learn about the engineering profession.

“Growing up, I had to learn along the way—no one in my family had the experience needed to help me figure out the industry,” said Kenneth. “Now, I have the opportunity to give these kids the insight I wish I had growing up.”

Stepping into the Classroom

Through the National Society of Black Engineers Colorado Chapter, Division Manager Jess Hastings connected with a teacher at Denver South High School. Jess, along with Project Manager Melody Forry and Designer Kemmy Mizinga, headed to the classroom to present on bridge engineering and the different disciplines that work together to produce a bridge.

For Kemmy, the experience gave him the opportunity to reflect on his career. “It was great to be able to show the students the career I’ve built since getting my start in engineering in high school.”

The team will continue to work with the students throughout the school year on their semester projects and will serve as judges.

A photo of students watching a presentation about bridge engineering
The presentation covered bridge engineering and the different disciplines that work together to produce the final product: a bridge!

To help their students get real-world experience in the engineering industry, Eugene Ashley High School in Wilmington, NC, reached out to the local American Society of Civil Engineers branch to see if any companies would be interested in becoming a classroom partner. With Benesch as the company sponsor, Kyle Herring volunteered.

He started the semester presenting to the entry-level drafting classes about Benesch and careers in the industry. Then, he introduced a project for the students to work on.

“Rather than giving them a mock project, I brought in a real project that I am currently working on,” explained Kyle. “Before the program started, I reached out to our client, and they were happy to allow us to use their project for a great cause.”

Each class has three groups working on the project: the civil group is drafting the site plan, the architectural group is drafting the building elevations, and the interiors group is drafting the interior spaces. Kyle goes out to the high school about once per month to meet with the groups, provide feedback and mentor them on the next steps for the project.

“This has been so rewarding and is such a great way to give back. Many of the students are really taking ownership of their work and doing a great job,” said Kyle. “As a testament to the success of the program, the course instructor was awarded New Hanover County teacher of the year!”

A photo of a group of high school students working at computers
Kyle guides high school entry-level drafting students as they develop site plans, building elevations and interior spaces as part of a learning project.

For the past few years, Nicole Jackson and Sam Buchanan, project managers in our Fort Worth office, have partnered with Aledo High School to create interactive lessons that allow the STEM students to see different aspects of engineering projects.

“I got in touch with the Aledo teacher responsible for the STEM program and asked if he could use any help. From there, we came up with a plan for Benesch to support his civil engineering lessons,” said Nicole.

Nicole and Sam tasked the 9th and 10th graders with building towers out of spaghetti and marshmallows, and had the upper classmen tackle a land development project. Next week, the team is headed back out to the school to work with a new group of students.

Welcoming Student Interns

Across Benesch, employees have been turning their offices into classrooms for high-achieving high schoolers.

After Nicole Jackson began volunteering with Aledo High School, she decided to take it one step farther by creating a summer internship opportunity.

“I wanted to give the kids an idea of not only of what it’s like to work in engineering, but also what it takes to get a job,” shared Nicole. “We shared a job posting with the students, reviewed applications and visited the school to conduct interviews. We picked the best fit and offered them a summer internship.”

This year, the team is excited to assist in the classroom again, sponsor the high school chapter of SWE and is even looking at the possibility of developing a work study program with the school.

Our Milwaukee office teamed with Menomonee Valley Partners, Inc. (MVP) to participate in a unique program that gives area high school students the chance to explore careers in the AEC industry. Students rotated between engineering, architectural and manufacturing companies in the Menomonee River Valley.

“We hosted five interns over a three-week period and showed them some of the work we do. The students learned about design, inspection and even toured construction sites,” said Project Manager Bill Zippel. “We wanted to give them a chance to see what practicing engineers do on a day-to-day basis so that they can decide if it is a career they want to pursue.”

A photo of an engineer and an intern in front of piles of gravel smiling
Interns were able to see engineering in action when they joined Benesch staff in the field.

In the Chicago office, various programs bring students from around the city in to learn not only about careers in AEC, but every area of the business.

As part of a major bridge inspection contract, the Chicago Department of Transportation requested Benesch bring on a high school intern each summer to assist with the work and learn about the engineering field. Senior Project Manager Mark Bendok works with the Talent Acquisition team to recruit a Chicago Public School (CPS) student.

“For this internship in particular, we wanted to make sure we recruited students that would really benefit from this experience and may not otherwise have the opportunity to learn about engineering careers,” shared Mark.

Once hired, the intern helps around the office, attends project meetings and takes part in field visits. At the end of the summer, they complete a presentation about their experience.

A photo of Juan an intern and Mark an engineer in the field smiling in front of the bridge and wearing construction helmets
Mark ensures the interns spend time both in the office and out in the field.

“It’s important that we give these students an understanding of what a civil engineer does and provide valuable skills for them to walk away with, including using programs like CAD, Excel and PowerPoint,” said Mark.

Since this program began, four students have participated. The first three are all now pursuing engineering degrees and last summer’s intern plans to do the same.

Benesch’s commitment to supporting the next generation of engineers doesn’t stop after E-Week. Throughout the year, our employees continuously seek out ways to connect with their communities and foster a love of STEM. Be sure to follow Benesch on LinkedIn for the latest updates on our work in our communities.