With Engineering Fair, Shawnee Mission offers high schoolers chance to explore career paths in booming fields

Jay Senter - January 12, 2018 10:29 am
Shawnee Mission students had the chance to sit down with professional engineers and ask them about their careers.
Shawnee Mission students had the chance to sit down with professional engineers and ask them about their careers.

With the boom in employment opportunities in engineering, it’s little wonder that many local high schoolers are interested in pursuing careers in the field. And on Friday, Shawnee Mission students had the opportunity to get a close look at what it’s like to be a professional engineer.

Shawnee Mission graduates who have enrolled in college engineering programs talked with students during a panel discussion.
Shawnee Mission graduates who have enrolled in college engineering programs talked with students during a panel discussion.

The district this morning hosted 140 students from across its five high schools for the second annual Shawnee Mission Engineering Fair. The goal, said Christy Ziegler, PhD, the district’s Assistant Superintendent for Innovation, is to expose students not only to the broad array of opportunities available under the engineering umbrella, but also to help them understand what steps they can take now to prepare themselves for a career in the field.

Among the features of the fair was the chance to sit down for individual or small group discussions with 19 local engineers from a variety of firms. Craig Denny, the former board of education president and an executive at Terracon, was on hand to talk to students about geotechnical and environmental engineering. Jeff Deitering of the Federal Aviation Administration was there to talk to students about civil engineering and airport design. And Suzanne Varughese of Honeywell was on hand to talk about chemical engineering.

Varughese encouraged students interested in engineering fields not to take set backs too hard in high school.

“Students are susceptible to negative feedback at that age,” she said. “But you may find in a couple of years that you’ve got a talent for an aspect of it.”

The fair also featured college recruiters from K-State, KU, UMKC, Wichita State.

Craig Wanklyn, the K-State College of Engineering assistant dean in the office of recruitment, said the fair gave colleges a great chance to meet with potential students and answer questions about. He said that with so many disciplines in the field — from electrical engineering to computer engineering to civil engineering — it can be difficult for high schoolers to have a sense of what might be the best fit.

“They don’t have to know right now, in high school, but it’s good to stay on a pathway that gives you options,” he said. “For these students, that’s a focus on math and science, and always the idea that you’re going to be solving problems.”

K-State's Craig Wanklyn answered questions from Shawnee Mission high schoolers.
K-State’s Craig Wanklyn answered questions from Shawnee Mission high schoolers.

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