4 ways to excite youth about engineering

In time for Engineers Week 2012 planning, here are ways to excite youth about engineering: Latching onto something familiar, use technology tools, and educate educators, says a supplier of electronics, desktop robotics, and educational kits.

01/27/2012


Excite youth about engineering by latching onto something familiar, using technology tools, educating educators, and using games and stories. Here’s some advice in each category, just in time to plan for Engineers Week 2012, Feb. 19-25.

The SparkFun Inventor's Kit for Arduino (an open-source electronic prototyping platform) is a box of goodies to get the engineering beginner started with blinking LEDs, controlling a toy motor, controlling a servo, reading temperature, detecting ambient lLatch onto something familiar first—Understanding new concepts and embracing learning can be achieved by latching onto a subject or object that is familiar for the student. For example, if a young student is interested in art or fashion, a good area to introduce the student to is e-textiles or conductive paint. The barriers are pretty low for getting started, and the skills learned are very transferable across multiple engineering subject matters. Providing stepping-stones, especially in regard to where these skills or projects would fit into a broader engineering subject, can spark the imagination and creativity of kids who wouldn’t necessarily otherwise see that connection.

Technology’s role and tools for learning—Exposing students to different learning styles is important. The kinesthetic (play-oriented) style of learning is appealing to everyone, especially children. Technology captivates the mind of the youth and cultivates intellectual curiosity and the desire to tinker and apply the newfound abilities in everyday life, hence, the ubiquity of electronics in games, TVs, computers, etc. It’s important to encourage students to get their hands dirty by taking things apart and playing with technology because it likely will create a more lasting impression. Repurposing old tools for kids to play with or taking apart older technology can be a great learning experience because it gets children exploring. In a Denver school, for example, the class took an old adding machine (which by today’s standards is obsolete) and repurposed it into a machine that makes music. Students learned engineering fundamentals and had a lot of fun throughout the process.

Educating the educators—Some educators and parents balk at teaching youth engineering-focused ideas because of the misperceived notion that there is a steep learning curve in getting these programs started. Introducing the open-source mentality to teachers (making them aware it is out there) and connecting them to a community, like a software or museum group, can show them the foundation work already has been done and allows them to customize it for their own curriculum and level of students. Moreover, it provides an avenue for exciting and educating not just one class, but an entire group of educators that can spark the interest in entire generations of students. Parental participation also is critical and can create a long-lasting bond between the student and parent by allowing them to work on a project together. However, it is important that parents and teachers not try to force learning; they should let the student choose whether or not to continue down this path.

Kids can get hands-on engineering opportunities with the SparkFun Inventor's Kit (SIK). Courtesy: SparkFun ElectronicsGames and stories—Pick an object that is engineering-related and create a background story for it. This personalizes the tool and gives kids a stake in the learning process. Teaching students to look through the lenses of constructivism is inherent in both the game and story approach as well. Through game and make-believe, kids are encouraged to ask leading and open-ended questions, which help develop a sense of teaching themselves how to do things. This also feeds off of the idea that we can teach young kids the basics of engineering practices, like soldering and programming, through constructing a game model, such as create their own adventure or animated simulations. These are other ways to lower the age and technical barriers to introducing youth to ideas of engineering.

- Lindsay Levkoff is education director and Lindsay Craig is educational outreach coordinator at SparkFun. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, www.controleng.com.

www.sparkfun.com 

www.arduino.cc 

National Engineers Week Foundation’s Engineers Week 2012 is Feb. 19-25. What are you doing to inspire youth, your next generation of talent, in engineering?

www.eweek.org 



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
2016 Engineering Leaders Under 40; Future vision: Where is manufacturing headed?; Electrical distribution, redefined
Strategic outsourcing delivers efficiency; Sleeve bearing clearance; Causes of water hammer; Improve air quality; Maintenance safety; GAMS preview
World-class maintenance: The three keys to success - Deploy people, process and technology; 2016 Lubrication Guide; Why hydraulic systems get hot
Flexible offshore fire protection; Big Data's impact on operations; Bridging the skills gap; Identifying security risks
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
Getting to the bottom of subsea repairs: Older pipelines need more attention, and operators need a repair strategy; OTC preview; Offshore production difficult - and crucial
Applying network redundancy; Overcoming loop tuning challenges; PID control and networks
Driving motor efficiency; Preventing arc flash in mission critical facilities; Integrating alternative power and existing electrical systems
Package boilers; Natural gas infrared heating; Thermal treasure; Standby generation; Natural gas supports green efforts

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role that compressed air plays in manufacturing plants.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me