WATERTOWN — New York Air Brake hosted about 40 middle school students for the company’s annual STEM/Engineering Day Open House on Wednesday, and students were extremely excited to take part.
Andrew Vincent, who is in eighth grade at Copenhagen Central School District, and two other students were taking part in an interactive design engineering activity where students had to construct the tallest freestanding tower possible out of the materials that were provided in order to hold a marshmallow.
Mr. Vincent said his group’s strategy was to build a basic square tower, but take away one of the sides and replace it with the string.
The only supplies the students received were 20 spaghetti sticks, one sheet containing 20 address labels, one piece of string and one marshmallow.
Students could only use those supplies, but could break the spaghetti, or cut up the tape and string, to create the tower.
Scissors can aid in construction, but could not be used as part of the tower and the tower had to support the entire marshmallow for 10 seconds.
The winning team had the tallest tower from the table to the top of the marshmallow.
Peter T. Derouchie, who has been with Air Brake for nearly 24 years and is a senior test technician, said students from South Jefferson, Immaculate Heart, Copenhagen and Sackets Harbor participated in the events on Wednesday.
Mr. Derouchie said they took the students through Air Brake’s facility on Starbuck Avenue and showed them their car test rack, demos, vibration setup and environmental chambers.
Peter J. Rogers, who has worked in the engineering lab for 10 years and is a test tech, said students were shown the environmental chambers and he felt like the tour gave students a real look at Air Brake.
“They get to come here and actually get a good idea of both ends of how engineering works,” he said. “You go from an idea, production to test to the market.”
He also said that there are employees who work at Air Brake now but were once students he showed demos to.
“I’ve done a lot of coaching; we’ve both done a lot of coaching, and to see that people come in and make them interested in what we do here, because we love it, we’re here because we have fun with it,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun, it really is.”
“It’s great to see kids that we’ve given tours, now they’re working with us,” Mr. Rogers said.
He also said it’s awesome to know that they may have had that impact on the students.
These tours have been taking place annually for about 15 years.
Mr. Rogers said students had a lot of questions. “It was good for us because with COVID and stuff, a couple years we didn’t get to do it with the kids, now they’re back, and we let them know that New York Air Brake is still here, and we can’t wait for the future,” he said.
Hunter Hatch, a seventh grader at Immaculate Heart, said he is interested in making engineering a career.
“I really enjoy the mechanical elements to a lot of it,” he said. “I really did enjoy looking at some of the machines, the machinery. It’s so precise, and so interesting.”
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