Building future STEM leaders, one brick at a time
If you ask sixth grader Timothy Snyder what’s so special about “just a brick,” be prepared to get inspired.
Timothy is a member of the Future City team from Baden Academy Charter School in Baden, Pennsylvania. Future City, a Program of DiscoverE, is a national, cross-curricular program that lets students in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades do what engineers do: identify problems, brainstorm ideas, design solutions, test and retest, build and then share results. The program now helps more than 40,000 students annually to get motivated and excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).
Timothy and his teammates from Baden Academy participated in the Annual National Engineers Week Future City Competition™ in the Pittsburgh region. Students are charged with envisioning a future city through digital and desktop modeling, and then presenting their city plan to judges.
The Pittsburgh Section of the American Ceramic Society was one of several engineering organizations sponsoring the regional competition. Glenn McIntyre, manager of Brick Technology at HarbisonWalker International, was a volunteer judge representing American Ceramic Society. He asked a singular question of one team.
“How does your future city employ ceramics?” was the simple question he posed to Timothy and his team members as he made his way through the presentations.
Timothy’s recollection of the interaction was this: “Here was a guy three times my size asking me about something, and I have no idea what the word, ‘ceramics’ means!” He and his team admitted they didn’t know, but said they would look it up when they returned to their lab.
“I figured he would be disappointed and move on, but he didn’t,” added Timothy. “He started talking about ceramics and what they do. What I remember most was his genuine enthusiasm for ceramics. He got me, and then my teammates, excited about ceramics. And I bet he would get you excited too! His enthusiasm was contagious.”
The exchange between Glenn and Timothy’s team was so inspiring that Timothy asked Future City to tell him the name of the judge who talked about ceramics. When Glenn found out, he invited Timothy’s team and all his teammates to visit HarbisonWalker International’s Advanced Technology and Research Center (ATRC) in West Mifflin, PA on April 29. The Center is one of the most advanced refractories research, development and testing facilities in the world and the largest in North America. The students gained hands-on experience to better understand ceramics material properties, testing and real-world applications.
Timothy presented his experience with Future City, Glenn and the visit to HarbisonWalker International’s ATRC in a TED Ed Club talk that has already opened more young eyes to the world of ceramics. As Timothy concludes in his talk, “What if competitions like this are not just about winning? What if they are also about the judges who work with different things? We became young scientists who now dream about ceramics!”
Steve Delo, CEO, HarbisonWalker International, wasn’t surprised to hear of Glenn’s contagious enthusiasm and the impact his volunteer participation had on the students.
“Our employees love what they do. And they pour the same intense passion and dedication into community activities as they do in the refractory business. Whether it’s through the Future City or other community causes, our team really is driven to make the world a better place. We all agree that the reason is simple: the more we give, the more we get back.”
View Timothy Snyder’s TED Ed Club talk here
Members of the Future City team from Baden Academy Charter School in Baden, Pennsylvania, participate in a refractory brick product demonstration at HarbisonWalker International’s Advanced Technology and Research Center (ATRC) in West Mifflin, PA.
Refractories professionals from HarbisonWalker International perform lab tests on refractories products as members of the Future City team from Baden Academy Charter School observe.
Glenn McIntyre, manager of Brick Technology at HarbisonWalker International, tests the refractories knowledge of members of the Future City team from Baden Academy Charter School in Baden, Pennsylvania.
About HarbisonWalker International
With more than 150 years of industry leadership, HarbisonWalker International (HWI) is the largest supplier of refractory products and services in the United States. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the company’s international network spans North America, Europe, and Asia, with 19 manufacturing plants, 30 global sourcing centers, and technology facilities in both the United States and China. Serving virtually every major industry that requires refractory solutions to enhance production and protect assets, HWI is consistently recognized for its talented experts, industry firsts, and intensely driven excellence.