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Pennsbury students celebrate Engineers Week

Boeing CEO and local elected officials honored Levittown’s “Rosie the Riveter”

Approximately 800 eighth-graders across all three middle schools in the Pennsbury School District kicked off Engineers Week with several high-profile VIPs on a Zoom call.

“It was our special honor to partner with Sen. Bob Casey Jr., Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, Boeing CEO David Calhoun, Ms. Mae Krier (Levittown’s “Rosie the Riveter”), Pennsbury Superintendent Dr. William Gretzula, and engineers from Boeing Aeronautics to participate in two lessons during science class,” said Pennsbury’s K-12 curriculum coordinator Jamie Swanson.

First, on Feb. 17, Boeing engineers Hana McKee and Christina Bowen helped science students spark curiosity about the following topics: What makes things fly? What is an engineer?

“After learning about the very important factors in flight, students became the engineers themselves in a design challenge to build the best paper airplane,” said Swanson. “Students designed and built their planes, then tested them for distance, stability and placement of cargo load. All of the eighth grade students participated in this challenge, then discussed with the engineers and each other what designs were the best.”

On Monday, Feb. 22, the same students witnessed a special recognition ceremony along with the elected officials and district superintendent, as Boeing’s CEO Calhoun honored Krier. She is a retired Boeing employee who answered the call to honor and respect her country in the 1940s by joining the “Rosies” from across the country to build the planes that would fly over Normandy and become integral in winning World War II. Calhoun surprised Krier with an announcement about the firm’s “Rosie the Rocketeer” – a robotic “Rosie,” complete with the signature red and white polka dot bandana, that will soon fly in a Boeing Starliner capsule to the International Space Station.

Students watched during the Zoom call as Sen. Casey interviewed Krier in a “Fireside Chat.” Krier’s words of encouragement to the Pennsbury students were to “persevere and never give up, go do it!” Her admiration for the space program and her Congressional Gold Medal highlight her trailblazing role. In a continuing chat with Rep. Fitzpatrick, Krier helped highlight the STEM field and its importance in our ever-changing world.

“We are excited to grow with the STEM occupations that Rep. Fitzpatrick described as exploding for our next generation of scientists and engineers in the making,” said Swanson.

Following remarks by Gretzula, who welcomed Boeing as the district’s newest Pennsbury Partner, several students had the opportunity to describe how they completed the aeronautical design challenge. They also discussed the world of engineering and what they know about this career pathway.

“This was such a great opportunity for students to complete an activity in the classroom and actually discuss the scientific method with women who work in the field of STEM,” said Tom Mellon, an eighth grade teacher at Charles Boehm.

“This was a wonderful opportunity for all. Students were engaged in the design challenge and enjoyed constructing and launching the airplanes. It was wonderful having two women in the field of engineering lead this opportunity,” said Jessica Berkey, eighth grade teacher at Pennwood.

“What a great experience for our eighth grade students and teachers,” said Susan Mahoney, seventh and eighth grade teacher at William Penn. “It was so nice to hear from the Boeing engineers and learn a little about what they do each day. They showed our students that it is possible to love what you do if you continue to work hard and keep learning and make sure you always leave some room for fun. Getting to see Mae Krier was also very inspiring for me. She is a strong woman and role model who continues to keep helping others and I am proud she is from Levittown, PA just like me.”

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