At Snyder & Associates, we think beyond engineering—pushing boundaries to achieve sustainable, right-sized solutions. We don’t shy away from a challenge because challenges inspire us. We’re passionate about improving the world around us and recognize our ability have a positive impact reaches beyond our work. By inspiring wonder—not just in celebration of Engineers Week—but each and every day, we strive to bring engineering to life and encourage people to explore the possibilities.
So how do we inspire wonder? From the streets of Colombia to classrooms in rural Iowa, you might be surprised.
Supporting Career Discovery & Readiness
For Snyder & Associates’ Engineering Technician Katie Wade, career outreach activities are the perfect opportunity to inspire wonder.
“It’s fun to help raise awareness of engineering careers,” she says. “Your career is a big decision. If I can spark a glimmer in the eye of one student and shine some light on the darkness surrounding what they want to do, then I’ve made a difference.”
Most recently, Wade participated in DMACC Career Discover Days, which encourages 8th through 12th-grade students to explore a variety of careers by touring area businesses, connecting with professionals, and participating in hands-on activities.
During the event, Wade and her colleagues presented an overview of their careers, answered questions, and shared real-life project examples with a group of 50 students.
As a mother, Wade says it’s important to let kids know there’s a middle ground between a four-year degree and going to work right out of high school. She points to her role as an engineering technician as one of many career fields that pay well and are in high demand.
“We’re searching nationally and can’t get our hands on enough engineering technicians, they just don’t exist,” states Wade. “I think what we do is fun and by sharing information about what we do, I hope others might want to do the same because the demand is so big.”
Reflecting on her career outreach experience, Wade says a common misconception students have is that they must be good at math to succeed as an engineering technician.
“It’s more about using the same type of techniques to solve a problem,” she explains. “We’re here to solve problems, and you have to want to be a part of that. The challenges we face and the software we use are evolving at a phenomenal rate, so it’s important to be a lifelong learner and enjoy problem-solving.”
Mathcounts: Helping Students Build Confidence
Former participant turned board member, Cindy Spencer, PE, Civil Engineer, utilizes the Mathcounts program to inspire wonder and help students build confidence.
“I first became involved with Mathcounts as a 7th and 8th-grade student. The program challenged me to do my best and helped build the confidence I needed to tackle more complex problems,” says Spencer. “If I can help others have that same experience, then I feel I’ve achieved something important.”
For over 30 years, Mathcounts has worked to empower middle school students nationwide to reach their full mathematics potential through enriching, extracurricular activities. At its core, the program builds problem-solving skills through four levels of competition in which students compete alongside and against their peers. This year marks Spencer’s fifth year on the Central Iowa Chapter Mathcounts board.
While the majority of Spencer’s work as a board member involves planning for the competition and scoring the day of the event, what she enjoys most is meeting the students and helping them connect their skills with real-world applications. As part of this year’s competition, Spencer had the kids solve a problem utilizing multiplication in order to fit a pipe underneath a roadway, a challenge she encounters as an engineer
“By highlighting the practical applications of their skills, students get a better understanding of how they can utilize their talent outside of the competition and classroom,” she states. “It’s fun to show students how engineers help shape the world. Maybe they’ll become inspired by what we do and make it their career goal.”
Inspiring Wonder Across Borders
As a member of Nebraska’s Professional Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-NE), Barbara Johnston, EI, Civil Engineer for Snyder & Associates Omaha office, has positioned herself to inspire wonder and help improve community quality of life in Malagana, Colombia.
“We were there to help address water quality and wastewater treatment concerns,” explains Johnston. “The community expressed a strong interest in our work, and local kids shadowed us throughout the day to learn more about what we do. We had different groups learning about percolation tests, taking water samples, and surveying.”
Founded in 2002 by Dr. Bernard Amadei, Engineers Without Borders is a community-driven program that strives to build a better world through engineering and community empowerment. At the center of each project is a three-way partnership between EWB, the community, and a local partnering organization that’s essential to success.
“Community partnerships help us learn about the community’s reality, culture, resources, limitations, and data availability,” states Susana Lizcano, Ph. D., President of EWB-NE. “Everyone is committed to making their community a better place. They’re responsive, dedicated, and resourceful.”
Reflecting on her experience, Johnston says she’ll never forget the appreciation expressed by members of the community.
“They prepared a thank you celebration with tons of people from the community, which was a total surprise,” she shares. “It was humbling to see them express so much gratitude for our work, and it was fun to dance with the people we had been working alongside all week.”
With another trip to Malagana slated to take place later this year, Johnston is passionate about seeing the project through and looks forward another opportunity to inspire wonder abroad.
“It was awesome to see the kids so intrigued by our work and eager it learn,” she exclaims.