For the past eight years, kids have been coming to the Chicago Architecture Center for an action-packed day of discovery at its annual Engineering Fest. Each year, more than 1,000 kids ages 8 to 14 are introduced to STEM fields through hands-on learning and creative problem-solving activities. And while the younger attendees might not realize it as they build with Legos and dream up cities of the future, parents are sure to see the educational benefits of the festival.
Chicago is known for its iconic skyline, but behind every towering skyscraper, there’s a team of engineers bringing innovation to the field. That’s why the CAC so strongly believes Engineering Fest is an integral part of the identity. In the past, the festival’s focus has been on urban transportation, engineering the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and the city’s tallest skyscrapers. This year, attendees will learn about how engineers are addressing climate change in the built environment. At its core, Engineering Fest is about inspiring the next generation of engineers, architects, and designers by providing kids with access to experts today.
“When families think of the Chicago Architecture Center, skyscrapers might come to mind before the profession of engineering. However, each year our Education team creates a festival centered around innovation and advancements in the field to help illustrate the science behind the walls of our most recognizable structures,” says Angela Esposito, Director of Education and Experience at the CAC. “Everything from bridges and transportation systems to construction and building tall rely on engineering. It plays a huge role in the city’s identity.”
A focus on the future
This year’s program on May 28, 2022, takes an age-appropriate look at the relationship between climate change and the built environment. Industry leaders, including those on hand at Engineering Fest, are increasingly focused on designing cities that strive for carbon neutrality by embracing cleaner energy resources like solar and wind power.“The focus is on the responsibility of architecture and engineering in the conversation surrounding climate change,” Esposito says. “Families will be able to work with real engineers and CAC team members while learning more about the impact of the built environment and how designers can and should be building with global impact at the forefront.”
The 2022 festival is in conjunction with the CAC’s Energy Revolution exhibition, opening April 9. The exhibition sets its sights on the future, exploring how cities and individuals can adopt sustainable practices and innovative technologies to combat climate change head-on. While going green isn’t always an easy adjustment, parents and children alike will leave the exhibition feeling inspired by how cities are shifting their focus toward renewable resources and motivated to make personal choices that can help slow Earth’s dangerous warming.
What’s in store at this year’s festival
There’s no shortage of entertaining and educational opportunities for kids during this year’s Engineering Fest. Continuing with the program’s emphasis on creating greener cities, children can build their own wind turbines using household materials while learning about the importance of carbon-neutral energy sources.
Take to the streets of Chicago to explore the systems that help people move around the city on a Youth Tour with a CAC expert. Discover the engineering feats that make the city’s famous bridges possible and learn about Chicago’s impressive “L” Train system. Not only is the CTA a reliable way to get to and from a destination in a timely fashion, it also saves energy compared to single-occupancy vehicles.
Throughout Engineering Fest, kids will learn about the ways engineers are addressing climate change in the cities of the future that they are designing today. But there are also ways for individuals to get involved and help save the planet. Whether this means committing to taking a shorter shower to save water, biking or carpooling to school to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or remembering reusable utensils when eating out, kids will have a moment to reflect on what they can do to help at the Take Action photo booth, complete with fun props for the perfect photo op.
Learning from the experts
Industry professionals will also be on hand to engage with children, answer their questions and inspire them to think big. The goal is to introduce young attendees to the various facets of engineering, ultimately providing a bridge to the field that outlines career pathways kids might not have otherwise known about.
“We find that kids end up leaving the festival with a newfound appreciation for and understanding of the city around them,” Esposito says. “They learn something here at the CAC and immediately see examples of it out in the world. I’m always surprised to see how quickly kids pick up on engineering principles and how excited they get to relate it back to what they see on their block or in their neighborhood.
Ultimately, Engineering Fest is about engaging with kids and sparking their curiosity. That might mean enhancing their problem-solving and critical thinking skills or even inspiring them to pursue a career in STEM down the line. The great thing about the festival is that it’s an open-ended adventure for kids to explore any way they want.Find out more about Engineering Fest and register at architecture.org.