Blog post by Whitney Harmel
Whitney Harmel is the Vice President of Membership and Development at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. She has over a decade and a half of sales, leadership, and relationship-building experience and proudly serves on the board of two non-profit organizations in Maryland.
Baltimore Polytechnic Institute Teacher Shiron Lindsay (‘04) Is Passionate about Expanding Engineering Job Opportunities for the City’s Minority Students and Strengthening Ties between Businesses and the Classroom
Shiron Lindsay has been a dedicated educator in Baltimore City Public Schools for the past nine years where she has taught engineering and computer science to middle school and high school students. She is also a community leader, serving as a Pre-College Initiative Chair on the board of the National Society of Black Engineers, and an advocate for minorities and women entering the engineering field.
Passionate about technology and STEM education, her recognized dedication to teaching has resulted in many Baltimore students winning STEM awards both locally and nationally. She also strives to strengthen the pipeline for minorities in STEM fields throughout Baltimore. As a College Park Scholar with a focus on advocating for children, Lindsay earned her Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maryland in 2009.
This past summer, Lindsay was one of four outstanding Maryland high school Career and Technical Education (CTE) and STEAM instructors that were chosen to be part of the Maryland Chamber Foundation’s second Teacher Externship Program.
The Foundation’s Externship program is an immersive four-week experience, pairing talented area public high school teachers of science, technology, engineering, the arts, mathematics, and CTE with partners from some of the region’s most prominent businesses. Lindsay said she was looking forward to her externship. ”In this role, I can get a snapshot of the different markets and will take that information back to my engineering and computer science students in the form of lesson plans and project ideas.”
Lindsay was matched with KCI Technologies, a leader in the transportation, site/facilities, environmental, construction, and communications sectors with clients throughout its more than 55 offices and 1,700 employees nationwide, including seven locations in Maryland: White Marsh, Frederick, Bel Air, Fulton, Hanover, Perry Hall, and its headquarters in Sparks.
Lindsay and spent her four weeks in both the headquarters and in the field, meeting with upper management, discipline heads, and practice leaders. Week One was centered on the Water Resource Market. KCI serves private, public and quasi-public organizations that supply, treat, store, and distribute water for residential, commercial, and industrial consumption “Week One was great at KCI Technologies,” reported Lindsay. “I learned a lot about the water market. “And incidentally, I’ve been told by water market Leader, Gary Mryncza, that Baltimore has some of the best water on the east coast.”
Continued Lindsay, “At KCI, I also learned about many of the jobs and projects that are integral to ensuring that our water systems are running smoothly. It’s not something that many people think about but designing, constructing, and maintaining these systems require many different careers including environmentalists, technicians, and engineers. I can tell my classroom that In the water market, there are careers in the natural environment, water resources, geo–spacial, and asset management.”
Lindsay was also able to observe the critical uses of technology throughout KCI. “During my time spent with the engineers and scientists, they talked about the technologies that assist them in solving problems within the water market. These include Microstation, AutoCAD, WaterGEMS, and BIM software like Revit. They also talked about a need for operators — those responsible for operating and maintaining water systems and plants. This is important information I can take back to my students.”
During Week Two, Lindsay was embedded with KCI’s Construction Management, Transportation, and IT department, including Executive Vice President and Transportation Market Leader Scott Lang, PE, CCM, and several of his practice leaders to discuss how engineers are planning and designing forward-thinking solutions for all modes of transportation. Lindsay noted the special importance of that division, especially to students planning to join the workforce. “When it comes to the environment, KCI wants to make a difference. While their work may not be splashed across the headlines, it is important to our daily lives. Technology is evolving faster than graduates can keep up. Combining the fundamentals with the technology and exposure to projects at KCI can transform a student’s experience into an in–demand career.”
Lindsay also enumerated jobs she will share with her students so they could enter the civil engineering world before they even get degrees. “These jobs include Construction Inspector, Building Operator, and Data Gathering and Analysis. Positions like these call for flair in areas such as Graphic Designers and Materials Technicians. If students are interested in the future of this industry, I’m going to advise them to research the following: LiDAR, Drones and Photogrammetry, Smart Cities and Smart Transportation, Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality. “
For her Week Three externship time at KCI, Lindsay was assigned to Sites/Facilities, MEP [MEP is the acronym for Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing work in building construction.] and Surveying. She came away with an increased appreciation for the importance of surveying. “Surveying is at the foundation of many of the projects at KCI. It plays an important role in land development from the first phases of planning and designing through the final construction of roads, utilities, and landscaping.” She stressed the special skills needed in this field. ”Tying trigonometry with technology, there is a need for this ‘backbone’ of civil engineering. In the field or office, surveyors use technology such as 3D scanners, drones, and LiDAR to provide all of the necessary information to the engineers, architects, and developers.”
During her final week, Lindsay joined the Transportation division headed by Market Leader Charles Phillips, Jr., RPLS. “As our world moves to become more technically connected,” reflected Lindsay, “transportation will look different in the future. I will tell my students that the future of transportation and technology will require forward–thinking engineers who want to make the systems more efficient and the environment better. While transportation may not be the first thing you think of when you think of new technology, there are opportunities to help develop the next technology that will transform how we use our transit systems.”
Lindsay concluded her KCI externship by sharing with the KCI team some of the struggles that area minority students have with trying to find ways to be successful in the engineering world. “Early on in my career,” Lindsay related, “I wanted to show students in my community that being an engineer was possible for people who looked like them. I wanted to show that they could be successful in careers other than doctors and lawyers. Unfortunately for many of the people I grew up with, they did not see examples of professionals in their families or their communities. I want to connect my students to others in an industry who are doing the things they want to do.”
Lindsay also came away from her experiences at KCI Technologies with a key to enhancing communication, with businesses playing an important role in bridging the gap. “Having access to professionals in the industry you favor could help to provide the necessary link and provide life–changing results. Students need mentors, including those in business, to help them navigate the course work in high school and to provide a network when they graduate. There is no shortage of talent in Baltimore City Schools; students just need a supportive relationship where they can learn, grow, and develop into the professionals we as teachers see in them every day.” To facilitate this support, Lindsay is working to create a telecollaborative project focusing on connecting students to professionals and students in higher education who are working in the areas they are interested in.
Continued Shiron, “In this life, it is not just knowing the material or content, it is also being in the right rooms and spaces for people to see that you can make a positive contribution. I wanted to create telecollaboration opportunities using technology where students can get what they need in small doses and remain on target with their studies. This would require some time and networking but in the end, I think it could open doors for my students beyond what I could provide. I hope that by providing telecollaboration sessions where students can have conversations with professionals, we can get them a step closer to their dreams.”
To learn more about the Teacher Externship Program, please visit https://mdchamber.org/teacher-externships. For more information on sponsoring and hosting a teacher externship, contact Whitney Harmel at the Maryland Chamber Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 410-269-0642, ext. 1117.