HNTB finishes successful first year partnership with Chicago Public Schools through SPARK Program

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Pilot Program helps to grow student’s exposure and interest in STEM careers

Amar Rajpurkar, HNTB Chicago office leader and vice president.

As a firm, investing in our future is a responsibility that we take seriously.

To support and grow interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), HNTB Corporation, an infrastructure solutions firm, partnered with Chicago Public Schools and the City of Chicago to provide students an up close look at the world of design, construction and engineering.

During the 2015-2016 school year, a group of 16 freshmen students from King College Preparatory Academy participated in a semester of learning and hands-on activities as part of the SPARK Program at HNTB’s Chicago office. The program is part of a larger effort by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Public Schools External Partnerships Office to promote learning opportunities in STEM.

“By giving our children more opportunities to learn math and science in and outside of school, we will help prepare them with the skills they need for the highly-skilled jobs of the 21st century economy,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “I want to thank our partners at HNTB for engaging students with opportunities that will engage and inspire our next generation of STEM leaders to move Chicago forward.”

Started in 2015, SPARK focuses on providing students with a unique curriculum that exposes them to active, real world projects throughout the Chicagoland area.

“We are happy to partner with King College Prep and work with such an exceptional group of students,” said Amar Rajpurkar, HNTB Chicago office leader and vice president. “As a firm, investing in our future is a responsibility that we take seriously. Our team is excited to continue this unique partnership so that we can develop the next generation of engineering leaders who will build and maintain the City of Chicago for years to come.”

Throughout the semester, students were exposed to a variety of projects such as the reconstruction of Wilson Station along the Chicago Transit Authority’s Red Line, the river walk and loop link projects downtown, as well as learning about the planning process, funding and ownership of roadways in Cook County. Activities provided a combination of hands-on learning at the office in technology, highway design and construction engineering and on-site visits with professionals at various public agencies. Sessions at HNTB’s offices downtown were led by HNTB engineer Mara Kosir who was recently recognized as one of Crain’s Chicago Business 20 in their 20s.

“We worked hard to challenge the students to think outside the box and think about potential solutions to address pressing infrastructure challenges,” said Kosir. “They quickly identified the problems engineers face every day on their own and presented solutions such as using drones as a way to collect mapping data, came up with different ways to implement autonomous vehicles among different generations, or replacing a signalized intersection with a roundabout. In one particular activity, they quickly grasped how to read rail signals and were able to apply what they learned to a simulation that was created for them.

Students also had the opportunity to engage with leadership throughout many of the region’s transportation agencies including the Chicago Transit Authority, the Chicago Department of Transportation, Cook County Department of Transportation, and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

King College Prep is a selective enrollment high school that offers an engineering specialization program for students. The SPARK program was designed to maximize the learning in the classroom with active participation from professionals in the field.

“CPS is committed to providing our students with meaningful, hands-on experiences that challenge them to think critically and build on their leadership skills," said Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson. "Programs like SPARK help students to extend learning beyond the classroom and into their communities. By working with students to craft their own solutions to STEM challenges, our students are gaining skills needed to be competitive not only in college, but in their careers and lives."

About HNTB
HNTB Corporation is an employee-owned infrastructure solutions firm serving public and private owners and construction contractors. With more than a century of service in the United States and 48 years in in Chicago, HNTB continues to grow in size and service offerings to clients, currently employing 170 full-time professionals in the Chicagoland area. HNTB understands the life cycle of infrastructure and addresses clients’ most complex technical, financial and operational challenges. Professionals nationwide deliver a full range of infrastructure-related services, including award-winning planning, design, program management and construction management. For more information, visit http://www.hntb.com.

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