Engineering field has work to do
An overwhelming 85% of kids aged 8-17 said they are not interested in a future engineering career for several reasons, according to surveys of youth and adults by Harris Interactive on behalf of American Society for Quality (ASQ). The ASQ survey’s goal was to provide a better understanding about the perceptions of selecting an engineering career in light of a troubling shortage of U.S. engineers, which will reach 70,000 by 2010 based on an estimate by the National Science Foundation.
Top reasons kids ditch engineering
44% do not know much about engineering
30% prefer a more exciting career
21% do not feel confident in their math or science skills, yet 22% ranked math their favorite subject and 17% ranked science as their favorite
21% of girls said their parents would more likely encourage them to be an actress, as opposed to 10% who said their parents would encourage them to be an engineer
24% of boys are significantly more likely than girls (5%) to say they are interested in an engineering career
31% of boys vs. 10% of girls said their parents have encouraged them to think about an engineering career
In an effort to double the number of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) college graduates by 2015, system engineers at Raytheon developed a prototype system dynamics model to examine STEM education in the U.S., using a stock and flow model that includes positive and negative feedback loops affecting the behavior of the system. The model is based on the overall number of students as they progress through the grades and move between an interest in STEM and non-interest in STEM. The model, hoping to better understand the complex nature of the U.S. education system, includes 14 major dynamic hypotheses and 227 independent variables that could affect whether students move towards or away from interest in STEM fields.
Indiana State University is involved in efforts at the middle and high school level to overcome the stigma in young people that science, math, and engineering are hard subjects and rather difficult to complete. “We don’t downplay the fact these areas are rather rigorous, requiring a fair amount of effort to successfully complete,” said Indiana State professor and ISA president Gerald Cockrell. The programs focus on desire, motivation, and outcomes, he said. “A student with a strong desire and high levels of motivation can be successful in a technical program. The outcomes focus on the various types of careers that a graduate may enter after completion. Some specific examples of programs include: Project Lead the Way, AutomationTek, Summer Manufacturing camp, and others.”
In March, the Automation Federation worked with the Piedmont Triad Partnership in organizing the first Technology Career Days event for high school students in the 12 counties comprising the Piedmont Triad region in North Carolina.
Hundreds of high school students from 16 high schools visited 35 exhibits that highlighted automation and technology and provided hands-on learning activities. The students had the opportunity to discuss design, manufacturing, and logistics careers in fields from product design to automation to transportation.
The National Academy of Engineering has even dedicated a web site to encourage high school and middle school students to consider engineering. At www.engineergirl.org students can read about why it is important to become an engineer in today’s society.
The benefits focus on the power to make a difference by solving problems important to society, such as controlling and preventing pollution, developing new medicines, creating advanced technologies, or exploring new worlds, the site said.
Ellen Fussell Policastro (email@example.com) writes and edits Workforce Development.
|Fourth grader Meg Rominiecki won first place in The National Academy of Engineering 2009 essay contest for middle school students with her essay about a machine that decreases the amount of space junk (www.engineergirl.org).
“I am concerned about the space junk that the world creates. Some of the stuff that are space junk are paint flakes, dust and slag from solid rocket motors from man-made nuclear powered satellites, and lost tools,” she said in her essay. “Space junk is a problem because if it stays up there too long it might hit satellites. It is a problem because it rains down on the earth and can be toxic.”
With images and descriptions of the motor, coils, and compartments that collect the space junk, Rominiecki speculates on how she would develop her knowledge as an engineer. “I would need to know about the kinds of things that are in space junk and what they are made of. I would need to know about what happens to things in outer space without much gravity, in very cold conditions, without oxygen, and without a protective atmosphere. So I would have to investigate how to burn something without oxygen,” she said.
The concept of teamwork is not lost on this future engineer, who acknowledges she will not develop her invention alone and without proper education. “In order to build this machine, I would need to study mechanical engineering and also the physics of outer space. I would work with a team of engineers because if we all work together we could work faster and have more ideas.”