Engineers Week is coming up soon, February 19-25. And it’s a good thing, too.
For an enterprise credited with improvements in our lives like electrification, clean water, global transportation systems, and computers in our pockets, engineering remains widely undervalued and poorly understood.
Most people rank it below science and technology as contributing to the quality of our lives. And their grasp of the field typically extends to only a small fraction of what engineers actually do.
Engineering societies have long felt the pain of these potholes in public awareness. They have conducted outreach at local and national levels for decades, putting millions of dollars into their efforts.
A difficult fix
A 2002 National Academy of Engineering study, Raising Public Awareness of Engineering, chronicled all these facets of engineering’s place in the public eye. The report estimated annual engineering society expenditures on outreach at about $400 million. And yet, for all this money and effort, levels of public understanding had not increased by any measurable degree. Ouch. $400 million a year to tread water, at best.
Towards a coordinated effort
The primary criticism of engineering outreach has long been the fragmentary, uncoordinated nature of the activities and messages. Though the National Society of Professional Engineers had been running Engineers Week since 1951, the events were mostly local and the messaging a function of local engineers’ interests.
In 1990, Engineers Week organizers started to take a broader, more strategic approach to the event. They developed new events, ideas, and resources to give engineering outreach activities at all levels a coherent, integrated focus. The mechanism for doing so became DiscoverE, which has since grown into the umbrella group behind Engineers Week, Future City, Girl Day, Global Marathon, and other education-focused programs. This portfolio now supports a year-round slate of engineering outreach efforts, involving hundreds of other organizations and 10,000’s of participating engineers.
Engineers Week upcoming
To make Engineers Week hum, DiscoverE offers educational outreach materials, training for volunteers and educators alike, and a high-level point of contact for larger-scale collaborations with groups outside the engineering field. For example, DiscoverE represented engineering interests in the production of the upcoming iMax film, Dream Big, showcasing engineering achievements all around the world.
The main event, though, is Engineers Week, which includes an emphasis on both educators and engineers.
Four ways Engineers Week serves educators
- Online learning resources for teaching engineering. Tutorials explain the engineering design process for use in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms, and engaging videos demonstrate real-life examples of the learning benefits.
- Classroom activities of many different kinds. Hundreds of hands-on lessons are available, sort-able by type, area of engineering, topic, grade level, and time required.
- Enrichment activities to extend classroom learning. Ideas for engineering-related trips, online resources, games, and videos help teachers explain how engineering relates to students’ daily lives.
- Participation in follow-up activities. Students can get involved with Future City and Girl Day activities, if they catch the engineering bug in class. And Dream Big will be accompanied by a host of associated festivities and learning resources, for schools to take advantage of on trips to see the movie.
How engineers can get involved
Engineers Week is primarily an event for engineers themselves to help students and educators learn what makes engineering important and relevant to all their lives.
- Online training. Both live webinars and video resources help engineers learn how to talk about engineering in kid-friendly ways.
- Guidance on leading activities. Besides dozens of ideas for specific activities, engineers can get support and instruction in how to present activities in age-appropriate, educationally useful ways.
- Support for follow-up activities. Extending engagement with kids beyond Engineers Week can happen with activities like Family Engineering Day, and help with such efforts is available.
- Other DiscoverE-sponsored events. Support is also available for engineers to volunteer as judges for Future City competitions, serve as Girl Day role models, or become mentors to a particular class or school.
Our books can help
We designed our Start Engineering educational outreach books to deliver the same kind of message about engineering that DiscoverE emphasizes during Engineers Week: engineering is a creative undertaking, with the potential to change the world for the better and provide intrinsically rewarding, well-paying work to be done with smart, interesting people.
During this Engineers Week season, all our books are available at 10 percent off. Just use the code EWEEK10.
- What’s Engineering? Color & Discover. (PreK-2nd grade)
- This 20-page coloring and activity book will help young children to see the world in a new way — as shaped and built by engineers — and to inspire their own engineering creations.
- Dream, Invent, Create (K-5th grade)
- Available in English and bilingual English/Spanish editions, Dream, Invent, Create uses whimsical rhyme and fun illustrations, encouraging kids to imagine changing the world through engineering.
- Start Engineering: A Career Guide (middle and high school)
- A 52-page magazine-style career guide, this publication introduces readers to the many cool things engineers can end up doing with their degrees. It showcases the top 16 engineering majors, including salary and economic data for each discipline, and offers tips on getting into engineering school and finding scholarships to help pay for it.
All our books can be customized with an organization’s own logo and message on the inside back cover and/or the inside front cover.
If you’re interested
Our customers include all kinds of organizations – companies, engineering societies, colleges and universities, foundations, and schools throughout the K-12 range.
Please get in touch if any of our publications look right for your Engineers Week activities or any other events during your organization’s calendar of outreach activities.
Eric Iversen is VP for Learning and Communications at Start Engineering. He has written and spoken widely on engineering education in the K-12 arena. You can write to him about this topic, especially when he gets stuff wrong, at email@example.com.
You can also follow along on Twitter @StartEnginNow.
Now available! A bilingual version of Dream, Invent, Create, for making engineering come alive in Spanish and English at the same time.
Our Dream, Invent, Create Teacher’s Guide makes it easy to get started teaching elementary school engineering, even with no training in the field. And for any outreach or education program, check out What’s Engineering?, Dream, Invent, Create, and Start Engineering: A Career Guide. Our books can help deliver an accessible, engaging picture of engineering to all kinds of K-12 audiences.