Win a free copy of The Big Book of Engineering Challenges by sharing a strategy on my Facebook contest thread that you use to get students interested in learning more about engineering or STEM careers. We are giving away five books. The winners will be chosen at random. You can enter once per day. Winners will be announced on Monday, November 16, 2015.
Note: For every 100 comments, I will give away an additional five books! Increase your chance of winning by inviting your friends and colleagues to participate!
I refer to Is There an Engineer Inside You? as my firstborn and the genesis of who I became and what I do today. I began writing it when I was struggling in engineering school. It’s the book that I wish I’d had when making the decision to go to school.
That was back in 1997. The first edition was released in 1999. In 2000, the book was the #1 Engineering Career Guide at Amazon.com and I was asked to speak at a NASA conference.
Sixteen years later, I’m proud to say that it’s in the fourth edition and now published in not only the U.S. but also India and China. Seventeen colleges, schools, and organizations partnered with me last year to give away thousands to copies to students who want to be engineers or are considering an engineering degree.
Last weekend I had the privilege of facilitating an Engineering Exploration Day for a school district in Washington State. If you follow my work you know about the Mother Daughter TEA (Technology Engineering Aptitude) workshops. In the Mother Daughter TEA workshop, Moms and their middle school daughters complete engineering projects together and learn about valuable, high-wage opportunities in the engineering industry. They hear about how women are impacting the field and get insight into career opportunities they may enjoy. The Mother/ Daughter TEA event was founded to encourage young women to take an interest in pursuing a career in engineering.
Every year, I hear from parents that also want their boys to have the same opportunity. As a result, last weekend we debuted “Engineering Exploration Day.” In this workshop, we had middle school girls and boys, moms and dads. We stuck to the same model of four hours on Saturday morning and built cranes, flingers and boats. The workshop moved along quickly and everyone stayed engaged. We had a great time.
If you are trying to recruit for your GTT, STEM 101 or any other engineering classes, this is a great workshop to hold because by the end of it, you’ll have the parental support at home that is so critical to students making good choices.
If we want engineering to be more broadly accepted by mainstream society and the media, we need to define what an engineer looks like. The field of engineering has become larger and more encompassing over time.
Engineers come in all forms. There are currently 2.3 million engineers, engaged in everything from design to sales to testing, manufacturing, training, and marketing. You can find engineers working in the field, behind a desk, in a production plant, at a customer site, or even on an airplane. 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 who don’t design our modern conveniences and structures? How do we show an appealing image of an engineer who is checking air quality or researching new and safer ways to dispose of compact fluorescent light bulbs? How do we show students the image of an engineer who is trying to find ways to save animals on the brink of extinction? How do we show an engineer who is working on developing safer foods, less hazardous farming techniques or ways to cut down on crime? That’s a lot of job descriptions and categories to narrow into one icon that defines an engineer.
If Hollywood can make CSI shows look good to students (forensic scientists often study dead people for clues), we can definitely find a way to make engineering look more appealing too. And it starts with an icon or symbol that we can associate with an engineer.
Life itself is an endless process of solving problems. When we use the engineering design process, students learn that engineering design, like life itself, is an endless process of solving problems. In dealing with life’s many challenges, successful adults take the same steps as the ones that students utilize in their engineering design experiences such as identifying or stating the problem, brainstorming possible solutions and then developing or building prototypes (trying it out).
According to Cary Sneider, a leading science educator and one of the writers of the Next Generation Science Standards, understanding engineering is essential for all citizens, workers, and consumers in a modern democracy. If the U.S. is to continue to play a significant role in the world economy, it is imperative that students be exposed to engineering design and problem solving thought processes. He goes on to say that the capability to formulate and solve problems is a valuable life skill. By including engineering design in classrooms across the country, students will have access to a wider range of viable careers because they will be prepared to take the appropriate courses in high school. Exposure to engineering design is also an important aspect of equity for girls and minority students.
So get your design on and let’s promote problem solving!
A few weeks ago, I ran a summer camp in Tulsa that simultaneously trained 10 teachers on engineering design while also serving as a summer camp for 34 middle school girls.
How it worked: On Monday, teachers learned several activities while the girls did ice breakers, watched videos and were entertained by other facilitators and several engineering students from the local colleges and high school (PLTW and robotics students). On Tuesday – Friday, the teachers, armed with the activities they learned and constructed on Monday, team facilitated the activities with the girls. When the girls had a field trip to local industry, watched videos, or listened to panel discussions (basically every spare moment), the teachers went back into training. When the girls went home, we refined our activities and hashed out what worked and what didn’t. It was an amazing week lead by amazing people! By the last day, 95% of the girls said they wanted to be an engineer and the teachers went back to class with increased confidence and bundles of materials to implement more engineering education into their instruction.
Inspirational message: Never underestimate the power of a full engaged and committed team of people. They can and will do amazing work!