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Last year, an estimated 2.4 million STEM jobs went unfilled. These included positions ranging from artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to cybersecurity and architecture. Increasing education and involvement in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields continues to be a critical link to developing our future workforce. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Education presented a 5-year strategy based on a vision for a future “where all Americans will have lifelong access to high-quality STEM education ….” Blue Springs School District (BSSD), a top-ranked school district serving more than 14,000 students in the eastern Kansas City metro area, embraced this vision by expanding its STEM curriculum.

Diamond Bronson, a senior associate in our Kansas City office, was approached by her daughter’s teacher to be part of BSSD’s STEM camp. Specifically, the teacher asked if Diamond would critique the 6th and 7th-grade student designs, which focused on architecture. Diamond jumped at the opportunity and rallied three Hoefer Wysocki colleagues to join the effort: Kelly Whitney, an associate and architect in our healthcare studio; Ashley Eusey, a professional engineer and sustainability advocate; and Ashley Wagner, a higher education and healthcare architect.

To provide hands-on experience with architecture, BSSD purchased 3D housing kits from Arckit. These freeform architectural modeling systems allow students to explore designs and bring their ideas to life. Students began by building the houses as directed in each kit. Then, in teams of two to four, they disassembled the kits and developed their own unique designs. A variety of creative designs were presented.

“Their designs were amazing,” said Bronson. “They built houses above coffee shops (they were already thinking about residual income!), small cities, schools, office towers, and stadiums.”

In evaluating the student’s design presentations, Hoefer Wysocki’s participants focused on different aspects of architecture including conflict management, planning, sustainability and construction.

“I was very impressed with the caliber of design,” Eusey said. “The kids showed exceptional critical thinking, creativity and thoughtfulness in every project.”

“I liked seeing how much the students enjoyed themselves,” Whitney explained. “I could see the wheels turning as they presented, and their creativity was off the charts. The thought and detail that was put into each design was impressive. Overall, it was a great experience and I would gladly do it again!”

The entire group felt this was a great way to step out of the office and into the real world to help shape and mentor tomorrow’s leaders. As self-proclaimed champions of STEM, they’re excited to report that they’ve already been invited to return next year.

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