Students pointed toward engineering Professionals offer career pointers

April 21, 1996|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,SUN STAFF

A group of fifth- and sixth-graders at Linthicum Elementary School turned classmates into robots and ran them into walls -- all in the name of science.

Under the watchful eye of engineers from Northrop-Grumman Corp. Friday, the students guided their robo-classmates through a maze as they learned about computer programming.

The youngsters are taking part in Discover E, a program started in 1990 by the National Society of Professional Engineers to encourage students to pursue careers in engineering.

Since February, 77 engineers from Northrop-Grumman Corp. have visited schools, 13 in Anne Arundel County, to explain their jobs and conduct hands-on experiments.

Northrop-Grumman will give each school $1,000 for its science programs.

At Linthicum Elementary, senior engineer William F. Janyska and engineering supervisor Martin J. Muller watched the progress of the human "robots."

"It looks like it's a very simple thing to do. But you can see there are a lot of ways you can go wrong," said Mr. Janyska, 58.

The older students glided through the course.

Fifth-graders ran into more problems, but all of them eventually made their way through the maze.

Peter Brzuchalski called out commands, and Omar Jamil obeyed until he got himself stuck in a corner because programmers hadn't included the right number of steps or turns for him to make. Team members huddled and "reprogrammed" their classmate.

"I learned how to go through a maze and how to program and go through it," Omar said after his successful jaunt.

Mr. Janyska, who has been an engineer for 20 years, told the children that the exercise mirrored life, in that engineers often spend hours debugging a program.

He said he would consider their talk successful if just one of them said to himself, "Gee, I never thought of that."

After the maze exercise, Mr. Muller, 38, demonstrated gravity and wind resistance with a 6-pound bowling ball suspended from the rafters in a net.

Mr. Muller asked Bob Clark, his teacher when he was a student at Linthicum Elementary, to pull the bowling ball to his nose and let it go.

When the ball swung back toward him, it did not strike him because it had lost momentum, Mr. Muller told the children.

The two men told the students that engineers must be good in mathematics and science, and that it wasn't too early to start planning for a career.

"A career is about two-thirds of your life," Mr. Muller said. "If you prepare now and get the bulk of the tools, you can spend that time in a career you like to do."

Pub Date: 4/21/96

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