Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How to Turn a Teen Into an Engineer

Thanks to Chris Fancher (@cfanch) for this article on how to get teens interested in engineering. As a former aerospace engineer, I know how important engineering is to the world. I try to use engineering examples and projects in my physics class to get students interested in engineering as a career. I'm a huge proponent of increasing and improving STEM education in K-12.

A recent study shows that teens are interested in engineering and that the most effective way to get them interested is to expose them to it. Engineers do some pretty amazing and cool things and we have to show our students this. Think about it. Everything around you was designed and manufactured by engineers! And, they make pretty darn good money. I am in my 10th year of teaching, have a Master's degree, and make about what I made over 10 years ago as an engineer.

Engineering has some characteristics that students like and help draw them to the career:

  • average salary of $75,000 (although I just saw another report that says the average salary is $85k).
  • career fairs well during recessions
  • do really cool things!
The study showed that the students also became more interested in engineering when they really what engineers do and the opportunities that exist for engineers. Some examples cited where "rescuing the Chilean miners, delivering clean water to poor communities" and much more. The other big point was that more students became interested in engineering when they found out the role engineers have in music, social networking, and games. I also remind them that their smart phone had teams of engineers working to design and manufacture it. 
Girls are also getting more interested in engineering and organizations like the Society of Women Engineers helps get girls into engineering and keep them in the field. 

Some ideas to get them exposed to engineering:
  • Discovery Education STEM resources and Streaming Videos ( )
  • CBIA Engineering Careers resources and videos - these are great ways to expose students to engineering
  • Bring in Engineers as guest speakers
  • Take students to an engineering company and have them tour the facility and meet with engineers
  • Take students to a college that has engineering programs and let them tour the labs and speak with engineering students
  • Use Project Based Learning in your classroom so that students see how engineers work. PBL is about solving a problem and the process behind it. 

Engineering is a career that has hundreds of specialty areas and affects every aspect of human life. We need more students to get into engineering and educators can help them get interested. 


STEM - description, ideas and resources for educators


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