Engineering outreach in action!

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Engineers of Tomorrow is a not-for-profit that is shaping the engineering narrative by telling better stories. 

Posted February 6, 2020

Sometimes it’s helpful to see something in action.

It’s one thing to talk about engineering messaging and strategic outreach.

But, what does that really look like?

You can spend all the time in the world researching, planning and preparing an activity.

Hearing someone’s first hand review of what worked well, and what didn’t can be extremely valuable.

Sort of like picking out a new restaurant….you can do all the research – check website, review the menu, figure out if the location is good….but reviews from real people can tell you the most about what to expect.

So, in the spirit of sharing, here’s our experience running an activity with a group of grade 4 students.

We decided to use the “Teach Engineering” website to select our activity. It’s easily searchable and the results can be filtered to find something that matches our selection criteria.

We landed on “Controlling Sound” (which aligned with their current curriculum) – students use a variety of materials to create custom headphones that absorb sound.

The concept here is pretty simple.

Engineers apply the science of sound absorption and reflection to design headphones.

We loved that headphones was something that all the students could relate to! Connecting activities to real, relate-able concepts is a great way to create impact.

We did make a few tweaks and add some content. We had the time (the teacher gave us 100 minutes!), and we knew it would be a great way to amplify impact.

First, we added a story. A real problem.

Our kids are watching Tik Tok so much and the noise is driving us crazy! We want some headphone that will block out the sound. 😜

The kids loved that we were talking about Tik Tok, and that they were helping us solve a real problem!

Second, we introduced the engineering design process (which worked extremely well with the printable worksheet that Teach Engineering provided!). To do that, we used a fun, short video (linked).

Third, we formalized the design approval process (before they were allowed to receive their materials, they had to get their design “stamped” by a real engineer). This allowed us to talk briefly about how engineering is a regulated profession.

And finally, whenever possible, we integrated strategic messaging about how engineers are helping people (like designing headphones!), and turning their ideas into reality!

So how did it go?

From the outside it appeared a tad chaotic…lol!

But, most kids made it all the way through the design and building process.

We had the opportunity to connect with every kids and talk about their unique designs.

And, they were ALL excited to bring home their new creations to show their parents (or protect their ears from noisy siblings…lol!)

We hope sharing our insights, experiences, and tweaks is helpful – and maybe even inspiring enough to prompt you to give engineering outreach a try. 💗

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