Building Future Engineers

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Building Future Engineers

Shashi Singh, a Controls Applications Engineer in Cummins Engine Business, helps a visitor to the Cummins booth attach a LEGO component to the LEGO engine at the STEAM! Innovation Fair outside Indianapolis. “It was fun mentoring the kids as they built the engine parts and to see the spark of joy in their eyes after they built the parts successfully.”

Cummins engineers are using nearly 30,000 LEGO bricks to connect with children as role models and inspire them to explore the world of engineering.

The bricks make up a scale model of the QSK95, nicknamed the Hedgehog, the largest engine Cummins makes. Kids are paired up with Cummins engineers at fairs and conventions to build different parts of the engine, and just maybe talk about engineering as a field of study and potential career.

“The LEGO QSK95 engine project is a really creative way for students of all ages to interact with Cummins employees in a fun and educational environment,” said Luke Langellier, a senior engineer on the real QSK95 who spent part of his weekend helping children build the LEGO model at the STEAM! Innovation Fair outside Indianapolis Sept. 16.

“Tying together something simple yet popular like LEGOs, along with building a model of one of Cummins’ exciting new engine programs, makes for a unique experience that’s beneficial to students as well as Cummins,” Langellier added.

Cummins is partnering with Project Lead The Way, the leading provider of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEAM) curriculum in the United States. Project Lead The Way has been promoting engineering as a field of study since its inception in 1986. Engineering is critical at Cummins where almost one of every six employees is an engineer.

Earlier this year, Cummins worked with the LEGO-enthusiast organization BrickWorld to design and produce a replica of the QSK95 using LEGO bricks. Then, Project Lead The Way found 24 STEAM-focused middle school students to build the model QSK95 using LEGO bricks at BrickWorld’s 2012 convention in Chicago in June.

The engineers shared their career stories at the convention and encouraged the students to study engineering-related subjects.

The children enjoyed their time with Cummins engineers (to see a video on the Chicago event click here) and were fascinated by the number of different components built in the engine as well as the size of the QSK95 model. The real engine is 14 feet long (3.7 meters) while the model is about 4.6 feet long (about 1.4 meters). The LEGO model weighs about 128 pounds.

“We are helping to provide these children with a better understanding of what engineering is, and what it can be,” said Jon Hill, an engineer by training and the Hedgehog VPI-Marketing Leader. “We want them to know that it’s not just sitting in a cube or a test cell working on a singular project, but rather it involves many different systems coming together.”

The LEGO project received the same enthusiastic reception at the Innovation Fair at Conner Prairie, a living history museum outside Indianapolis.

“The proof for me of the success of our exhibit came on Sunday afternoon when I saw a young boy guiding his grandmother across the grass to our booth,” said Teresa Hattabaugh, Director – Cummins Emission Solutions Global Internal Controls, who helped organize the Indianapolis event.

“She told me that he had been there on Saturday with his parents and was so excited that he brought her back on Sunday,” she said.

“The excitement (of this program) is working side-by-side with the engineers,” said Sam Cox, senior director of school relations at Project Lead The Way. He attended both the Chicago and Indianapolis events.

“Kids can learn about what an engineer does on a daily basis, and the engineers can interact with the kids on what they are doing in their classrooms to help them to be successful in high school, post-secondary and beyond,” Cox added.

Over the next few months, Cummins and BrickWorld are hosting similar events in Fort Wayne, Ind.; Charlotte, N.C.; and other cities throughout the United States.

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