LBJ volunteers with 140 middle school studentsOn Wednesday, June 12, LBJ Infrastructure Group (LBJIG), the company who operates and maintains the LBJ Express and the LBJ TEXpress Lanes, sponsored for the third year, a STEM camp day for 140 Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD students. LBJIG has partnered with Carrollton-Farmers Branch Education Foundation (CFB Giving), the STEM camp organizers, to help teach middle schoolers STEM and civil engineering concepts. In those three years, the three-day, STEM camp has been hosted at Barbara Bush Middle School and has impacted approximately 440 middle school students.

Over the years, LBJIG has challenged the students to build different structures out of K’NEX pieces. Previous design challenges have included a bridge and a tower. After the success of the past two challenges, LBJIG developed a new curriculum and came up with the LBJ Express Crane Design Challenge. Thirty-two volunteers from LBJIG, NTE Mobility Partners (NTEMP), Stantec, Prointec, North Tarrant Infrastructure (NTI), Webber and Jacobs came together to represent LBJ Express at the STEM camp.

Each year, the large number of students is split up into either the camp’s morning or afternoon session. At the beginning of each session, LBJIG explains several civil engineering concepts and applies them to real-life examples and challenges that are not only important to consider for the design challenge but also for when an engineer is on the job in the day-to-day. After the presentation, students get to become “civil engineers for the day” and are divided up into even smaller groups so that LBJIG volunteers can provide individualized instruction and mentorship.

Students were given the rules of the challenge, presented with the judging criteria and were asked to build a crane that was a minimum of one foot tall with an overhang of at least 4 inches. The challenge also required the use of gear mechanics and a K’NEX motor to be incorporated into their design. The winning crane would be determined by a series of tests. Each groups’ competitive edge was in full force as students eagerly waited for the 120-minute countdown to begin. Students raced the clock to complete the STEM activity. Once completed, students turned in their crane in the big, presentation room for testing. Each crane was elaborate and at least met the minimum requirements for qualification. The winning crane held 2 bottles of water and had a maximum pull strength of 8.20 lbs. Teams were awarded First, Second and Third Place. All in all, students successfully applied the civil engineering concepts that they learned from LBJIG. Students also practiced team work, strategic thinking and public speaking.

When LBJIG volunteers were asked about their experience, Jean Elias, Senior D&C Engineer, who is a third-time volunteer and the curriculum developer for the LBJ Express Crane Design Challenge, said, “I understand the importance that inspiration has in shaping our lives, a simple activity in a camp, can be all that a kid needs to get inspired and decide to pursue a career in STEM. Some of these kids are already interested, but do not have a close family member that has pursued a STEM career to guide them, so hopefully we are giving them additional tools and inspiration to follow this path.”

Chelsea Zhang, LBJIG finance department and first-time volunteer said, “The hours spend at the STEM camp were totally worth it! The kids are very creative, and some of them are natural leaders. I was impressed by how much and how fast they can learn from each other, as well as by the genius ideas they came up with. I would love to volunteer again next year!”

The LBJ Infrastructure Group was one of three corporate sponsors to partner with CFB Giving and CFBISD for this three-day STEM summer camp. Other corporate sponsors included Seeds to STEM and Citi.