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Women of the Buffalo District Inspire the next Generation

Published March 17, 2016
In honor of Women’s History Month, Buffalo District USACE women volunteered their time to address a group of 4th grade girls at the Lydia T. Wright School, Buffalo, New York.

In honor of Women’s History Month, Buffalo District USACE women volunteered their time to address a group of 4th grade girls at the Lydia T. Wright School, Buffalo, New York.

In honor of Women’s History Month, Buffalo District USACE women volunteered their time to address a group of 4th grade girls at the Lydia T. Wright School, Buffalo, New York.

In honor of Women’s History Month, Buffalo District USACE women volunteered their time to address a group of 4th grade girls at the Lydia T. Wright School, Buffalo, New York.

Women’s History Month celebrates the contributions and achievements of women. In honor of Women’s History Month, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Buffalo District women volunteered their time to address a group of 4th grade girls at the Buffalo Public Lydia T. Wright School, Buffalo, New York.  

Biologists Lesta Ammons, Molly Connerton, and Shaina Souder along with Hydraulic Engineer Colleen O’Connell teamed up to educate and inspire the young ladies on various aspects of their USACE science-related careers. The Buffalo District team members were eager to show next generation of practitioners how science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) play a major role in our everyday lives. 

The students broke-down into four groups and rotated between stations. Each station described the seemingly endless variety of careers that can be found within the Corps of Engineers and motivate them to engage in the STEM fields. The students were enthusiastic, engaged, and thoroughly interested in the presentations. 

The first presentation was a simple yet very effective demonstration of how wetlands perform.  Similar to how sponges soak-up soapy water, wetlands help prevent toxic substances and other contaminants from entering our water supply. Using two paint trays, a couple of sponges, glitter and sand to symbolize pollutants, and some simulated rain, Ammons transformed the classroom into a simulated watershed. The students were transfixed as they clearly witnessed one town at the bottom of the paint tray without the sponge fill with water, glitter, and sand, while the other with the sponge had the glitter and sand removed from the water.  This showed the importance of wetlands in the landscape.  

Connerton's presentation was a discussion about wetland plants, invasive wetland plant species, and included a demonstration of how to use a plant press. She emphasized the importance of finding a passion in life and working hard to achieve goals. 

Souder demonstrated how to use a field guides for identifying plants and animals, and engaged the girls in a thoughtful discussion on what inspired her and how she arrived at a career in biology. 

Hydraulic Engineer Colleen O’Connell provided a hand’s-on presentation that demonstrated the siphon principle, which is  a tube or pipe that allows liquid to flow from the higher level to the lower level.  She also provided a map of the Great Lakes and a flood inundation map from Raccoon Creek, Ohio.  She finished with telling the girls about her educational experiences and her work in coastal and hydraulic engineering.   

“Engineer your own success by dedication, hard work, and keeping an open mind,” said O’Connell.

This quote perfectly sums up the message delivered today to Ms. Megan Silkowski’s fourth grade class.  

Women in STEM careers have had a huge impact on society. The Corps of Engineers is committed to strengthening STEM-related programs and inspiring future generations of young women to pursue careers in these fields. Visiting schools and working directly with students is one way the USACE Buffalo District is accomplishing that mission.