Northwest Florida Students Gaining Engineering Experience through E3
STEM education in northwest Florida is growing due to an innovative program called E3 – Extreme Engineering Exploration. Gulf Power has partnered with two local Florida school districts, the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce, the University of West Florida, Pensacola State College, and Avalex Technologies to form the Northwest Florida Next Generation Learning Community (NGLC). Recognizing the need for advanced STEM education in the area, the NW Florida NGLC, a Ford PAS Next Generation Learning Community, has formed the E3 project, which offers students valuable engineering experience while exposing them to what it is like to learn in a college classroom.
Designed with the future workforce in mind, E3 gives high school students opportunities to become immersed in industry-level engineering programs with real world applications. Students meet and work closely with local engineers who explain their jobs to the students and offer insights about the benefits of entering the engineering industry. Students learn critical skills and knowledge with the aim of giving them a strong foundation for future studies and careers. Gulf Power has provided engineers to meet and mentor students as well as give them guidance for team competitions in which students compete in science projects for prizes. For one such contest, the “Popsicle Stick Bridge Competition,” Gulf Power provided the materials, specifications, and scoring methodology, as well as engineering advisors who coached the student teams.
The end goal of E3 is to inspire and motivate high school students to enter STEM careers after they graduate, as well as to help bring about economic prosperity across the community. The benefit of E3 is that it is easily replicable and adaptable for other communities and industries. With continued support from each invested partner, E3 will continue to grow and encourage students throughout Florida to enter STEM careers.
Jennifer Grove, workforce development coordinator at Gulf Power, said she hopes E3 becomes an annual event. "Gulf Power is 100 percent behind this program because this is the type of opportunity that gets students excited about careers in engineering,” Grove said. “The activities are fun and engaging, the students get to meet and talk with various engineers from throughout the community, and that’s inspiring for our next generation of engineers. This is critical because all fields of engineering are foundational to our economic growth, and we need to see more students entering and completing post-secondary engineering programs.”
Natalie Prim, Vice President, Pensacola Chamber said the success of E3 will grow additional summer programs for the region. “The Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce has partnered with Escambia County School District to make STEM academies a priority. E3 was made possible by the District’s commitment to the creation of the engineering career academies which is producing talented students with real-world, practical 21st century skills for the engineering profession and beyond.”