County News

Building its workforce: S.C. county recruits STEM students

Girl Scouts from the Eastern South Carolina Council constructed a model bridge during Charleston County, S.C.’s “Introduce a Girl to Engineering.” The county Transportation Department sponsored the event. Photo courtesy of Charleston County, S.C.

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Charleston County, S.C. Transportation Development Department is participating in STEM events with local students

Coming up short hiring new employees? You can discover a goldmine of future employees by collaborating on projects with local science, technology, engineering and math, (STEM) students.

The Charleston County, S.C. Transportation Development Department is taking a creative approach to expanding its future workforce to include innovative, passionate leaders who will serve the community for years to come.

One of the ways Charleston County works to develop its future workforce is by actively participating in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math or STEM events with local students. Women and minorities are commonly underrepresented in STEM-related careers.

One of the essential ingredients to capturing a girl’s interest in the engineering field is to create fun enriching opportunities at an early age.

In order for the county to achieve its goal of getting kids interested in STEM, the county teamed up with The Citadel and the Girl Scouts of Eastern South Carolina for an “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” event. 

“It’s very rewarding to see more than 100 girls come together, learn about engineering and be so happy and excited about it, said Dimitra Michalaka, civil and environmental engineering assistant professor at The Citadel.

Mackenzie Kelley, construction project manager at the Charleston County Transportation Development Department, introduced compression, load and tension engineering concepts to the Girl Scouts by constructing cable-stayed bridges out of PVC pipes, ropes and boxes.

“As a young girl in elementary school, my parents drove home the importance of education,” she said. “I got involved with Odyssey of the Mind, Designation Imagination and Math Engineering Science Achievement commonly known as MESA. Exposure to these programs fueled my interest in solving problems.”

Now, years later, Kelley is paying it forward to the next generation of girls who, like her, like to solve problems.

“As a woman in a STEM field, I feel that it is important to encourage more young girls to be interested in math and science,” she noted.

“We need to break the stereotype that all scientists look a certain way. I enjoyed challenging the Girl Scouts to think outside of the box to solve issues we face in the engineering field daily.

Helping them navigate through the process of designing wind powered cars and piecing together all of the components of a suspension bridge was exciting. These girls have the potential to help us engineer a better world one day.”

Working with partners such as The Citadel and the Girl Scouts of Eastern South Carolina allows Charleston County to become one step closer to reaching children at a young age and growing a local workforce. 

Charleston County Transportation Development Department is managing a $2.1 billion transportation infrastructure half-cent sales tax program.

Handling large-scale infrastructure projects and small-scale projects that include drainage improvements, bike and pedestrian paths, and paving and resurfacing requires a team of educated and skilled individuals with a STEM-related background ranging from accounting, budgeting, inspection, project management and civil engineering.  The department is excited about the future of the community’s young children and how they one day might be instrumental in successfully maintaining and growing Charleston County for years to come.

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