Oyster Bay High School students gained first-hand knowledge from professional engineers when they came together for the fourth annual Breakfast of Engineers.
Held in the high school library, students and engineers from a variety of disciplines including civil, environmental, mechanical, industrial, electrical and materials sat together and listened to a panel of three professionals discuss their area of expertise and how they solved real-world problems. Then, in intimate roundtables, students had the opportunity to ask questions and gain a deeper understanding of the engineers’ respective fields.
“It’s really exciting to see so many aspiring engineers, both boys and girls,” said Keith Kowalsky, one of the panelists. “Engineering right now is a field that is absolutely booming…Every industry is being driven by an engineering perspective, so to see so many young people interested in the field is exciting.”
Kowalsky, who serves as president of Flame-Spray Industries, Inc., a state-of-the-art company that develops and implements thermal spray technologies, explained to students how the technology is used with a PowerPoint presentation. In 2009, Kowalsky was named National Inventor of the Year along with his team for the development of the Plasma Transferred Wire Arc Thermal Spray Apparatus and Method, a system designed to improve fuel consumption that is now used by Ford, Land Rover, Nissan, Caterpillar and Detroit Diesel.
Preceding Kowalsky’s discussion was Nora Brew of Walden Environmental Engineering, PLLC, headquartered in Oyster Bay. An engineer and project manager with more than 20 years of experience in environmental engineering, Brew provided a PowerPoint presentation on the damage Island Park endured after Superstorm Sandy and the ways her company helped solve flooding and water damage issues that plagued the community.
She said of the field, “No two days are the same, which keeps it interesting and challenging.”
The third panelist was Peter McCuster, a software developer for Google who has been working on ad products for the company for the past nine years. Addressing the students, he said, “I’ve been hooked on engineering since I picked up that first Java book and I hope that happens to you.”
Junior Ethan Guarini, a student in the high school’s introductory engineering class, said, “I didn’t really know about the different aspects of engineering. I’m glad I got to talk to engineers in different fields and learn about the different types of engineering, such as mechanical, environmental and civil.”
Junior Maggie McNamara, who attended for the first time, said, “I want to keep an open mind about what I plan to do when I am older and I think this was a really good opportunity to see if this is something I want to pursue.”
Freshman Rachel Kowalsky, whose parents are both engineers, said, “I’m a big science person. I loved learning about the different perspectives of people’s jobs in life and how they came into this business and how they wanted to solve a real-life problem and how they fixed it.”
The event was coordinated by Janna Ostroff, the district’s K-12 supervisor for science and technology for instruction, with the goal of creating a pipeline of capable engineers from Oyster Bay High School.
“Engineers imagine create, plan and modify based on failure and retrying,” she said. “If our children learn these habits of mind we really believe we will create a pipeline of engineers as well as lifetime learners.”
Ostroff noted that engineering is incorporated into the district’s K-12 programs with such projects as creating anemometers, vehicles, polymeters, windmills and parachutes at the elementary level. Vernon School students tinker, build and create in the makerspace program, and at the high school, the district offers Introduction to Engineering and a college-level engineering course through Stony Brook University. In computer science, choices include CISCO networking certification, Advanced Placement computer science and 3D video gaming and programming classes.
Ostroff took the opportunity to honor Michael Angelone, a mechanical and industrial engineer who has operated his own consulting business in Oyster Bay for 35 years. Angelone has been part of the Breakfast of Engineers since its inception and was recognized for being a “thoughtful and welcoming mentor to students.”
In addition, Ostroff thanked engineering teacher Andrew Schlendorf, computer science teacher Suprabha Malhar-Jain, and assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction & assessment Dr. Lisa Mulhall for their support of the event, as well as all the professionals who took part in the program. Other engineers who participated included Richard Cameron, Philip Coniglio, Jerritt Gluck, Joseph M. Heaney, III; Dr. Robert Kukta, Shila Shah-Gavnoudias, Peter Syrett, Christina Berardi Tuohy, James Wiesenfeld, and Art Zahradnik.
“Taking the time to be here this morning to share your thinking is greatly appreciated,” Ostroff said.