AEDC welcomes high school students for Engineers Week

  • Published
  • By Kali Bradford
  • AEDC Public Affairs

Students from neighboring high schools will have the opportunity to learn more about the engineering profession as Arnold Engineering Development Complex gears up to host the long-held Engineers Week, Feb. 18-24.

This event, which coincides with National Engineers Week, will provide students with the opportunity to learn about the wide range of engineering careers at AEDC.

Due to COVID, the event has been on hiatus for the last three years. However, thanks to retired AEDC engineer, Paul Kelly, along with several other base personnel, the event has been revived.

“I am very excited to be bringing back the Student Design Competition, the Engineer-For-A-Day program, and the Engineers Week Banquet,” said Kelly. “Engineers Week is a time to help raise public awareness of engineers' contributions to society, and through the design competition and the Engineer-For-A-Day program, we are reaching out to students to help make them aware of engineers and engineering. Hopefully, some who take part will go on to college, study engineering, and become engineers when they graduate.”  

National Engineers Week will kick off with a Student Design Competition on Feb. 20, at the University of Tennessee Space Institute, or UTSI. High school students will compete in teams to design, build and compete with their design against other teams. They will not know what they will be asked to design until they arrive at the competition. The teams will be given kits with identical materials and will have two hours to design, build and test. After lunch, the teams will compete with their designs against each other. Prizes will be awarded to top scoring teams.

Kelly, who has been with the program since 2002, stated that the week encourages students to challenge their creativity, math and science skills, and more.

“The Student Design Competition gives high school students a quick introduction to almost every aspect of engineering,” explained Kelly. “They are asked to design, build, test, market, and compete their design against other designs with a review board and a sales audience. They are encouraged to use their creativity to solve problems, as well as science and math that they have learned so far in school. Engineering is about applying math and physics to a problem to come up with a solution and that's what they are challenged to do. Many of the best lessons come from the glorious failures, but they also learn teamwork, need for presentation skills, and the need to work within a budget or what they have been provided.”

The Engineer-For-A-Day program will take place on Feb. 21 at Arnold Air Force Base. Students will tour the base, have lunch, and then go with a mentor to observe engineers at work.

Students will spend the day with practicing engineers where they will get a close-up view of what an engineer is involved in day-to-day and will also provide the student an opportunity to ask questions regarding the engineering field.

Currently Kelly is seeking engineering mentors for the program. Engineers who are interested in volunteering their time for the day can contact Paul Kelly at

Kelly said mentors can benefit from their time with students.

“I think the engineers at AEDC who volunteer to be mentors for the Engineer-For-A-Day program will find that they are challenged by the students' questions and interests and that they will find a deeper appreciation for the field they have chosen,” he said.

“The engineers who are helping to put on the Student Design Competition get feedback on their efforts to create a challenging problem for the students, and they also learn teamwork, volunteering and making things happen.”

Students participating in Engineer-For-A-Day will meet with their mentors at 11 a.m. at Café 100, following a tour of AEDC. They will remain with their mentors until 3 p.m.

Kelly added that the day also allows students to see aspects of Arnold AFB that they might not have seen before.

“As this program takes place primarily at AEDC [Arnold AFB], many of the students get to see some cool things, such as large and small wind tunnels, engine test cells, space chambers and other facilities,” he said.

An Engineers Week Banquet will be held at 5 p.m. on Feb. 23 at UTSI to celebrate the events of the week. Tickets are available for $30 for adults and $10 for students. To reserve tickets, contact Paul Kelly at