Guidance for Students at Suncoast Technical College at Experience Engineering Luncheon

Todays News

BY JOHN WITTE SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY NOV 18, 2019

“What exactly is a 'forensic engineer?'” asks one of the high schoolers gathered around the cafeteria table, her eyebrow raised sardonically. Not twenty minutes ago, Dan Barshinger answered that very same question from another student; but it still raises a chuckle. After all, the title sounds awfully arcane. His father just retired as a lieutenant with the Sarasota Sheriff's department last year, and, in a way, Barshinger is following in his footsteps: he's a mechanical detective. When disaster strikes and big machines fail, companies call Barshinger to find out where things went sideways. When Barshinger went to the University of Central Florida for engineering, he wanted to design cars and trucks for Ford or General Motors—but he already thought Orlando was too cold, so he figured Detroit might actually do him in. “I thought I was going to design trucks," he says. "Life loves to throw you a curve ball.” When he had the chance to move back home and work for a consulting firm named Kimley Horn, he jumped at the chance.

The high schoolers gathered around him are absolutely enthralled with his tales of industrial destruction. They learn that truck axles can turn bright blue when they spontaneously melt on the highway. What happens when the Gravitron ride malfunctions at the fair? Barshinger starts to demonstrates with a hand gesture. Time is called before he has had the chance to tell the tale of  giant rock tumbler gone dangerously out of control. The students are disappointed, but they'll soon immerse themselves in another story, another interesting character, another window into the future. They had no idea that engineers did so many different things.

The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and Sarasota Couny Schools hosted the fifth annual Experience Engineering Luncheon this past Friday. Every year, the Sarasota Chamber snags engineers from companies all over Sarasota and recruits students from their science and technology classrooms to convene at Suncoast Technical College—“the heart of engineering in Sarasota,” according to Sarasota County Career and Technical Program Specialist Kyle Holbrook—for a day of round table discussions. The groups cycle to a new table every fifteen minutes, and every fifteen minutes a new group of students introduces themselves to Barshinger. Does he know anything about marine engineering? What school has the best environmental engineering program? Barshinger makes incisive recommendations and hands out his contact info all morning long. He guides wave after wave of juniors and seniors who are already feeling the crush of impending college application deadlines and final exams that aren't going to study for themselves. They're thankful for the tips, and Barshinger, in turn, is happy to meet the next generation of recruits. 

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