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Seoul American senior Linus Lee gets a close up look at an asbestos sample Tuesday during presentations by the Corps of Army Engineers. Each year, the Corps shows teaches students about engineering careers as part of National Engineers Week.
Seoul American senior Linus Lee gets a close up look at an asbestos sample Tuesday during presentations by the Corps of Army Engineers. Each year, the Corps shows teaches students about engineering careers as part of National Engineers Week. (Joseph Giordono / S&S)

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — The Army Corps of Engineers took time out Thursday to help answer the age-old question posed by bored kids in math and science classes: “When are we ever gonna use this stuff?”

As part of its annual ritual to mark National Engineers Week, officials from the Corps’ Far East District set up hi-tech displays and demonstrations explaining how, exactly, everyday math and science are used in the field.

“This is something we’ve done every year during the last week of February since 1997,” said Doug Bliss, a Corps organizer.

“It gives students a chance to see what they can do with their studies. Or, if it’s not something they want to do as a career, it’s a chance for them to talk with the engineers and see how things work.”

Engineers, architects, environmental specialists and other from the Corps set up display tables with titles such as “Geotechnical Engineering,” “Microscope Analyses of Asbestos” and “Geographic Information System and Survey.”

Throughout the day, classes from Seoul American High School came through, getting a quick lesson at each display table. When a whistle blew, they moved on to the next station, eventually getting to each display.

At the “asbestos” table, FED engineer Pak Chong-pin handed around a vial containing asbestos fibers, warning each group not to open the top.

He then launched into a lesson on how engineers find and dispose of the dangerous material, frequently used in construction until the mid-1980s.

Another display highlighted contributions of women in engineering.

Among those profiled: Martha Chavez, an electrical engineer and top executive for computer giant Hewlett-Packard, and Bonnie J. Dunbar, an astronaut and mechanical and biomedical engineer.

SAHS engineering club members staffed another table, with displays touting their projects and activities.

Among their efforts are an entry into the West Point bridge-building contest and a design for a rain cover to the school’s outdoor “snack shack.”

The club members have had a wealth of hands-on experience in engineering, they said.

“We went on a tour of the Yongsan overpass when it was being built and we’ve seen the new apartments,” said Jesse Thomp- son, a senior. “Later this year, we’ll go to K-16 air base and go in the Black Hawk flight simulators.”

Students that visited the displays left with another little piece of knowledge.

Why is National Engineers Week the last week in February?

Because it’s close to the Feb. 22 birthday of George Washington — who also was a military engineer and land surveyor.

“The engineers here have been very active in reaching out to the student community and giving the students something to think about for the future,” said John Malone, a physics teacher and adviser to the engineering club.

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