Build It and Connect It Workshop with KPFF Consulting Engineers at Oakland Bay Junior High School

On April 18, 2024, Oakland Bay Junior High School in Shelton, WA hosted an IGNITE Build It and Connect It Workshop focused on livable structures and utilities. The event was led by a team of engineers from KPFF Consulting Engineers – Lacey, featuring Lauren Wittkopf, Civil Design Engineer, Sierra Tabaczynski, Civil Project Engineer, and Hydraulics and Stream Design Engineers Candace Loftus, Erin Drumm, and Katie Sherer. Twenty-two students participated in the Workshop that aimed to introduce them to the basics of civil engineering and urban planning.

The event kicked off with students dividing into small groups, each tasked with creating a site plan for a building using supplies such as paper, popsicle sticks, and pipe cleaners. The students built detailed models of their structures, complete with utilities like power, internet, water, gas, and sewer lines, creatively represented by different colored pipe cleaners. Additionally, they included essential features such as parking lots and storm drainage systems constructed using paper towel rolls. To ensure functionality, the storm drains were tested by dropping marbles down the “pipes” to see if they flowed correctly into the rain garden.

As each group completed their project, they connected all utilities to main lines using streamers, providing a visual representation of how individual properties integrate into a larger urban system. This hands-on activity was a fantastic way for students to grasp the complexity and collaboration involved in urban planning and civil engineering.

Following the activity, students had the opportunity to engage in a discussion and Q&A session with the KPFF Panelists. The STEM professionals brought actual site plans to show the students, illustrating that their work closely mirrors real-world engineering projects. This visual aid helped students draw parallels between their models and professional engineering tasks.

During the Q&A session, students asked questions about the engineers’ career paths, daily responsibilities, and experiences in a traditionally male-dominated field. Questions also ranged from how the engineers decided on their career paths to the various places they have traveled for work. The Panelists shared their personal journeys, emphasizing that it’s okay not to have everything figured out right away and encouraging students to explore different STEM classes to find their interests.

The students were particularly excited to see women from their local community thriving in engineering careers. The one-on-one time after the formal Q&A allowed students to share their stories and aspirations, making a deeper connection and providing individual encouragement. The Panelists stressed the importance of trying new things, working hard in school, and staying open to various career possibilities within engineering.

The students’ enthusiasm and curiosity, coupled with the Volunteers’ expertise and encouragement, made this workshop memorable and impactful for everyone involved! Thank you to the KPFF team for providing such a creative and informative experience: Lauren Wittkopf, Candace Loftus, Sierra Tabaczynski, Erin Drumm, Katie Sherer, and Blake Lord. And thank you to IGNITE Educator Michaela McCoy and the Oakland Bay Jr. High students for your engagement!

After attending this event:


of students are interested in STEM

Take STEM Class


of students know more about STEM career choices and the benefits of working in a STEM field

Ask Teacher about Additional STEM Activities


of students feel more confident in pursuing STEM


of students gained perspective and feel more hopeful about the future

Here’s what the students thought of the event:

I really enjoyed working with others and building things. I enjoyed it all equally.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

I have more options for career choices. Learning how to build a house and pass an inspection test was pretty fun, and I feel like I learned a lot.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

It inspired me to really explore my interests. It also showed me another job in STEM that I didn’t know about. My favorite thing I learned was about how you can engineer stream beds for salmon so they can get upstream and are not blocked by roads or walkways. Thank you, volunteers!” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

“This event was pretty fun. Although I’m still in the process of figuring out my career, so I haven’t decided anything yet. I liked the info about how many pipes and stuff are there. Also, I liked the little intros from the volunteers. It was fun.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

Today made me feel like it is easier to pursue my dream to be an engineer. I thought that only boys could, but now I realize that girls can too! Today, my favorite thing I learned was about water systems. The volunteers were really kind and AWESOME!” – 7th Grade IGNITE Student

Today’s event inspired me to be less scared to pursue different career choices. It also broadened my awareness of career choices. I’m glad I did this. I learned that there are a lot of pipe systems that I didn’t know about. I thought that was very interesting.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

“Today’s event inspired me to be confident in being a woman in science. My favorite thing was connecting streamers to the property.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

Today’s event inspired me to continue my passion to become a veterinarian and learn more about the sciences behind it. Today’s event will help me with future classes and colleges. I liked learning about the layout of homes and the technology behind it. I also liked learning about the volunteers’ experiences in their careers.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

It inspired me to continue pursuing challenges, and I liked the activity with the layout of homes.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

“I think this is really cool, and it would be awesome to work these same kinds of jobs.” – 7th Grade IGNITE Student

“I learned a lot about how things like water and power are connected to buildings. I know more about the layouts of houses.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

It inspired me to do what I want to do in a career, to do something that would make me happy.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

Today’s event made me feel better about my future life choices. For a while, I couldn’t decide even what subject I was focused on, and today I learned that there are so many jobs that combine topics of interest for me. I feel like I have it more figured out now.” – 7th Grade IGNITE Student

The event today inspired me to ask more questions about STEM.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

“It made me see how to have jobs or be an engineer.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

I learned there are more careers for women in the engineering field and you can take trips during the summer when all the construction is going on.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

I feel more confident in myself.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

About KPFF:

Founded in Seattle in 1960, KPFF Consulting Engineers is one of the largest and most established structural and civil engineering firms on the West Coast. At KPFF, we partner with our project teams collaboratively to push boundaries and elevate the work we do in a constant pursuit of excellence. We believe that engineering is about providing a healthy, vibrant community that is truly sustainable. We are committed to reducing the carbon footprint of each project, and we thrive on designing innovative solutions.

About IGNITE Program Workshop Events:

In-Person Workshops are held at the students’ school with a group of company volunteers. These volunteers lead students through a hands-on STEM experience in small groups and then students in an IGNITE Panel and Q&A discussion.

About IGNITE Worldwide:

IGNITE Worldwide is a 501(c)3 nonprofit STEM education organization that aims to change gender and racial equity in STEM permanently and systematically. We work directly with teachers during the school day to provide programming that promotes gender equity and representation in STEM academics and careers. Through our award-winning program, IGNITE provides engaging, hands-on events that connect students with STEM professionals from industry leaders from around the world. Learn more at

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