Elementary Kids Get Glimpse of Engineering Careers

Half of Hillsboro Charter Academy’s building was transformed into a bicycle factory this week.

Kids as young as 6 years old rolled up their sleeves and cranked wrenches as part of a weeklong lesson meant to introduce the students to various engineering careers.

Hillsboro Charter won a $1,000 grant from Virginia Department of Transportation, and physical education teacher Kelly VanBenten teacher earmarked some of that money for the bike-building workshop.

On Thursday, as part of National Engineers Week, the kindergarten through fifth-grade students worked alongside firefighters from Loudoun Heights Station 26 to put the bikes together. In all, they assembled 18 bikes.

“It’s pretty cool to learn how to make a bike,” fourth-grader Jacob Lenhart said. “Now we actually get to use them.”

As the students were hard at work, VanBenten said the bike-building workshop demonstrates the hands-on lessons that the founders of Hillsboro Charter Academy had envisioned when they first applied for a charter. The school opened in August as Loudoun County’s second public charter school.

“Where else can every kid in a school help build a bike?” she said.

The bikes will be stored on campus, where students can ride them during physical education class or as part of after-school programs. In the spring, the firefighters will return to teach the students bike safety.

This week, also as part of National Engineers Week, Hillsboro students learned about the many types of engineering fields, including mechanical, chemical, civil and electrical. Each of the teachers wore clothes and carried props that demonstrated an engineering field. Throughout the week, they dropped clues and fielded questions to encourage students to guess what type of engineer they were pretending to be.

VanBenten, sporting a NASA T-shirt, said, “We wanted to demonstrate all the different engineering related career paths they could go into. For example, I am an aerospace engineer.”

The school also held a drive to collect LEGOs for the students to use year-round.

Hillsboro Charter Academy students assembled 18 bikes during National Engineers Week. [Danielle Nadler/Loudoun Now]


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