Hundreds of children spent a day learning about the inner workings of a government agency on the South Coast as part of an effort to raise their enthusiasm about the fields of science and technology.
A robotic tractor with arms called a skidsteer - operated via remote control - used to pick up debris to clear channels was part of the demonstration to the more than 700 children from preschool to high school taking part in Public Works Day in Ventura.
“It’s very inspiring that everyone has a part to play in our community and everyone plays a different part that all fit together to make the community a better place,” said 13-year-old Bethany Perez.
Perez is with her family to learn more about Ventura County Public Works Agency.
“There’s different parts of science that I’ve never thought about too. There are so many different varieties that you don’t have to just pick one,” she said.
The lawn at the Ventura County Government Center is filled with booths and equipment along with scientists, engineers and technicians to explain what they do.
Chris Cooper with the Public Works Agency says they do it all.
“We do roads, bridges, water and sanitation, buildings, flood control facilities. So, we have a huge gamut of disciplines that we work in that we provide health and safety to deliver safe, clean water. Taking dirty water away from houses and treating it and protecting the environment and providing office space and buildings and facilities,” he said.
Cooper says this event puts a strong emphasis on pursuing Public Works careers in STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
“We do need young, smart people coming into our field. It’s always been a dilemma to attract engineers and scientists to do public service. And that’s what we need and that’s what we desire to get through our outreach today,” he said.
In one booth that represents the Public Works Agency’s Raptor Program, the children learn about red-tailed hawks and barn owls that live in the County. Those who work in this program – like Karl Novak -- create habitat for these raptors so they can hunt rodents and resolve an issue.
“Ground squirrels and gophers are a big problem for levees and dams because they will burrow right through a levee or dam and could cause it to fail because the water will go right through the levee,” said Novak.
The kids learn about native and drought tolerant plants, surveying, rain and stream measurements, composting with worms and the importance of solar panels. Other companies in the community that provide a public service are also represented.
Southern California Edison is teaching the students about electricity.
These Edison workers use a model street to show the dangers of downed power lines and what to do to avoid getting electrocuted.
Eleven-year-old Evan Ferro says he enjoys this demo.
“I really like electricity. I like how it works. I like that it takes time and stuff to do. I just like it,” he said.
For some of these children, like 12-year-old Emmanuel Garcia, the event is eye-opening.
“I didn’t even know these jobs were real. I didn’t even though many of these jobs. And now it shows me the kinds of influences of my career choice when I get older,” he said.
And that’s the goal of Public Works Day…to get these children inspired to pursue science and technology-related careers, especially within the Ventura County Public Works Agency.