I’ve received many emails lately about Engineers Week and what it’s all about. To briefly summarize, Engineers Week (Eweek) is always during the president’s birthday week. So this year, it’s Feb. 16-22. Eweek statistics show that last year, 40,000 engineers visited classrooms to educate students about the field of engineering. Eweek extrapolates that those engineers reached 5 million students! There are only 20 days until Eweek and it’s not too late to get involved.
Below, I have provided suggestions for teachers to use Eweek as a special time to really educate, inspire, motivate and/or cajole interest in engineering. It’s a time to celebrate the profession and the amazing advances and achievements of the field. It’s also the perfect opportunity to get people to help you in this mission.
Five things that teachers can do right now.
The first thing I would recommend to get an engineer to come to your classroom is to open the phone book and call a local firm that has a yellow page ad. Explain that you are a teacher and would like an engineer to talk to your kids for Engineers Week. You can give them the link to Eweek (www.discovere.org). Most firms benefit from the exposure so you might be surprised at the results. If they seem resistant, just try another.
Put your state in the search engine to find local events in your area.
There is a good chance that in a classroom of 30 students, at least one or two will have parents that are engineers. You may be able to get the parent engineers to talk to your class.
Call your local college of engineering and see if you can arrange a tour or see if they are doing anything special to celebrate the week. Don’t forget about junior colleges and vocational schools! They are also great resources.
Contact your local engineering society to find out what they are doing. For example, the IEEE, ASME, ASCE, NSPE and many others have state branches that are independently run by engineers in your state. This may be an excellent opportunity to make a lasting connection. Just put (ieee.org) or (asme.org) or (asce.org) or (nspe.org) into your browser and search for local or state chapters of the organization. When you find your state contact, write to the president asking for help.
What are you doing for Eweek? Questions, suggestions? Post them here!
For us engineering education advocates, when we want to inspire students, the problem isn’t about finding information on engineering careers, locating hands-on activities, or helping students decide which college to attend. It’s more about figuring out:
What is appealing to students (what drives this generation);
How to present the information;
Getting that tailored information to them (books, DVDs, hands-on projects, posters, websites, etc.);
Answering their questions (Will I like engineering? How hard will I have to work?, Is it worth the hard work?, etc.).
To refresh your memory, The National Academy of Engineering conducted a major study a few years ago to address the messages we portray to pre-college students about engineering. Changing the Conversation, the result of the study, states that young people want jobs that make a difference. Additional recommendations from the research study are as follows:
Stop reinforcing the images of “nerdy and boring”
Stop focusing on math and science as the needed inputs and instead focus on the outputs, career opportunities, and making a difference in the world
Use the word “create” not “build”
Use images of people, not things: especially avoid using gears and mechanical looking things
Use the following five words in describing engineering: discovery, design, imagination, innovation, contribution
Describe engineer as creative problem solvers, essential to health, happiness and safety
Emphasize that engineers shape the future
Have you been using the recommendations? With Engineers Week on the horizon, right now is the perfect time to figure out when and how to jump on the bandwagon.
What does an engineer look like? You can put on a lab coat and people automatically think doctor or scientist. A headset implies telephone operator, sales person or receptionist. A space suit screams Astronaut. Pilots, firefighters, police people, photographers, teachers, construction people, farmers and many other occupations have a certain “look”. But what does an engineer look like?
One problem with determining “the look” is that the field is so broad. Engineers design, manufacture, build, research, write, investigate and present their findings. It’s easy to think of engineers designing rides at Disney or crawling around inside of a bridge to check for stress cracks. We know what that looks like but what about the engineers that don’t design things? How do we show an engineer that is checking air quality or researching new and safer ways to dispose of compact fluorescent light bulbs?
Is anyone having a fashion/runway show for eweek next month?
Promoting engineering to K-12 students is about much more than teaching, mentoring, you or me. Promoting engineering is a movement to help students learn to problem-solve, explore, investigate, analyze, create and think for themselves. It’s a way to teach them to think, assess situations and look for solutions to the problems that confound them daily. It’s about helping them find better ways to get through each and every day – to make life more fun, be more productive or make the world a better place.
If the students of today are not up to the task of making the world a better place, where will we be in 10 years, 20 years or 50 years? What kind of planet will we be leaving to future generations?
Now that the holidays are behind us, the next big celebration on my calendar is Engineers Week (eweek). Because I run a center that is based on promoting engineering, this is a big deal. In fact, it’s such a big deal that I talk about it all year. If I facilitate a training, those teachers hear about it. If I talk to engineers about mentoring, they also hear about it. I blog about it and sometimes throw eweek parties. The reason I get so excited about Engineers Week is because I get the chance to celebrate the profession with thousands of like-minded people all over the world.
If you want to decorate the halls, check out our posters. The majority were designed by students and I promise you will find many that you like. http://www.stemposters.com