Ballpark Provides Real-World Setting for Future Engineers

It's a shortage that's getting worse instead of better, the lack of high school students interested in careers in engineering. Nationwide, only two out of every 100 high school graduates go on to earn engineering degrees. A program aimed at changing those numbers used minute maid park recently to show local middle school students real world engineering applications. Jack Williams was there.

"Bailey students stay over here."

Instead of ballplayers on the field and fans in the seats, on this day it's groundskeepers mowing the grass and curious students from Bailey Middle School in Spring ready to learn.

"At this time, please go ahead and start your program and hold up your poster board when you're ready."

The students scatter throughout the empty stadium, each group with laptops, some in the upper deck, some in the Crawford
Boxes, others behind home plate. They're part of a sound engineering project to determine which seat is the best to hear stadium announcements if you're hearing impaired.

"Alright, here we go. Strike."

The field trip is part of the Infinity Project, a program started about 10 years ago to get high school and middle school students more interested in careers in engineering, math and science. Veronica Vijil is the principal at Bailey Middle School.

"It has really captured their attention and made them look at science and math in a different way. Instead of just envisioning a scientist standing there with a lab coat in a laboratory setting all day, it really opens up their eyes to the different careers that they can express an interest in. After this, for example, we now have some kids who are interested in sound engineering."   

Eighth graders Justin Burks and Cara Strickhausen say it's helpful to see real-world applications for what some kids think are boring subjects.

Burks: "Around this age, you kind of start thinking about what do I really want to be when I get older and this kind of thing with sound engineering can help you look toward that."

Strickhausen: "It makes me see what I can actually use the things that we're learning in school in the real world. When I get out and I get to see how these things can be used, it gives me more of an excitement to go and learn it everyday."

"Next sample. (Balloon pops)"

David Kennedy is part of the Spring School district's new Smart Center, which utilizes math and science in ways that kids who use i-Pods and cell phones everyday can understand.    
 
"For a lot of kids, especially kids that might not have an idea in mind, might  not be thinking about college at all as a future option, this is something that would get them interested early enough to where when they're in high school and a little bit more able to pursue things that
are going to lead directly into that career, that they can pursue those things." 

 
The Infinity Project is in 37 states and hundreds of schools. It's funded by Texas Instruments. This is the company's Cathy Wicks.

"Today kids see technology everyday, so it intrigues them to be able to take a real-world problem like the one they're working on today and use the skills that they've been working on to solve a problem."

By the way, if you were wondering, according to the data collected by the middle-school students, the best place in the stadium to sit if you're hearing impaired is section 102 in the Crawford Boxes in left field.

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...