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Students Build Bridges, Explore Construction Trades

There’s no need to reach for a textbook when you can ask Elias Ramirez about gears, tools, or mechanical advantage. The White Bear Lake sixth-grader’s passion for science and construction is obvious.

That’s why he participated in White Bear Lake Area High School’s recent Learn2Build event, one of several daylong programs hosted throughout Minnesota this summer to introduce middle school students to careers in construction and the building trades.

Learn2Build is a statewide program designed to increase awareness about careers in the construction building trades among middle school students in Minnesota. Construction Careers Foundation funds the program and caters to kids in grades 4-9 by applying Science, Technology, Engineering and Math to “real-world” construction materials and processes through fun, take-home projects.

“I’ve always wanted to build things, since I was little – as young as four,” Elias said. “I like to build a lot.”

Through Learn2Build, students such as Elias replicate “real-world” construction materials and processes. With the help of skilled construction professionals, students learn about the people behind building the roads, bridges, schools and other facilities that we all depend upon.

“We know that in order for students to build a deeper understanding about the skills needed for a successful career in the construction trades, they need opportunities to explore and learn more at an earlier age,” said White Bear Lake Career Pathways navigator Jenny Moore.

Learn2Build is the first step in the Construction Career Pathways that Moore uses to guide students to careers in Minnesota’s construction industry. The program was hosted at White Bear Lake Area High School so middle school students could see the engineering, woodshop and manufacturing classrooms at the high school.

Elias glues triangles together to build his bridge. White Bear Lake Area High School’s Learn2Build event helps kids apply Science, Technology, Engineering and Math to “real-world” construction materials and processes through fun, take-home projects.

Elias built a bridge out of popsicle sticks in the woodshop – but not just any bridge. Elias modeled his work after photos of truss bridges supplied by Learn2Build staff. Truss bridges get their unique appearance from the beams or other elements that form many rigid triangular structures.

He takes pride in his work, gluing each popsicle stick to form triangles.

“Triangles are the strongest shape,” Elias said, while counting how many popsicle sticks he used.

The middle school students eventually tested their bridge designs by seeing how much weight they could hold.

“You’ve got a good design here, buddy,” said White Bear Lake Area High School career counselor Jeremy Kerg as he added another five-pound weight on top of the bridge.

Elias’ bridge held more than 50 lbs.

Elias hands his bridge to White Bear Lake Area High School career counselor Jeremy Kerg. Students watched as Kerg added 5-pound weights onto the bridge.

From building bridges to remote control cars, Elias said he enjoys seeing how small moving parts work together to accomplish a task. Gears, switches and moving parts interest him most.

“If you hide it (gears), you can make it pretty much look like something is moving independently,” Elias said. “Sometimes it makes things work better instead of having to do a direct motor, you can use mechanical advantage to put in more power.”

Elias plans to spend his summer doing his favorite thing, building. “I definitely want to do more camps like this,” Elias said.

To learn more about Learn2Build, visit ConstructionCareers.org/programs.