When I was in high school, one of my brother’s best friends said he was studying to be an engineer. It was fun to tease him about how we could envision him riding the rails with a conductor’s hat on. Of course, I was joking and he knew me well enough to know that (I knew) driving trains wasn’t the kind of engineer he meant. I worked at our family’s construction general contracting company and was versed enough in the industry to see the the importance of the work of architects and civil and mechanical engineers. Yet even armed with that knowledge, I had no idea how many different types of engineers there were, their diversity in different industries and their impact in the world.
Today is a different age with different rules as well as different modes for learning. Kids are constantly pounded with opportunities and activities geared around STEM and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics.) There is STEM programming available to stream, including a STEAM-centric Netflix original embracing female empowerment and boasting that smart is the new cool. As an example, a few years ago, my daughters participated in an Engineering for Kids day camp at the local museum. The following year, my collegiate Alma Mater hosted an “Introduce a Girl to Engineering” event during National Engineer Week. As the name implies, it was specifically designed to increase female awareness of the skill.
And my, oh my, do they make it fun for kids! With educational games and toys like Marble Mania, K’NEX and MakerStudio, kids don’t even realize they are absorbing some basic principles behind construction, engineering and technology. They’re just playing!
Then there’s robotics. Wow. I had NO idea that such a simple product like a Lego could have such educational benefits. First Lego League as well as programs such as the camps and classes are all made possible through the support of sponsors, generally corporate sponsorships. As an example, to celebrate the 65th Anniversary of National Engineers Week, U.S. Cellular is working with Boys and Girls Clubs throughout the country holding “Ask An Engineer” sessions to increase the understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers. They have also provided youth with a behind-the-scenes look at how the network operates and the impact that technology and engineering have on something we take for granted every day, a quality cellular service. Such services would not be possible without the experience and know-how of talented individuals in the engineering and technology fields!
Programs vary from community to community, but you can learn more about career opportunities in engineering by visiting DiscoverE.org, the National Engineers Week website. U.S. Cellular is dedicated to educating the youth by motivating them to explore the field, thus inspiring the future a more diverse engineering workforce. These kids are the inventors, creators and problem-solvers of the future and they are able to achieve these successes through programs established and supported by corporations like U.S. Cellular and John Deere. Without the commitments of these companies, the number of educational opportunities to integrate STEM and STEAM learning into the community would be greatly diminished.
I’m grateful that my kids are blessed with such educational programs that make learning fun while encouraging them to take chances in fields that I wasn’t even aware of when I was their age.
What types of camps, events and programs are available in your community? Have you ever researched the companies that are helping to fund them?