Getting Started in K-12 Engineering Outreach

Eric Iversen

Who We Are

Start Engineering is a small company with a sharp focus: K-12 engineering outreach. We publish books, develop information resources, and collaborate with individuals and groups to bring a good word about engineering to K-12 audiences of all kinds.

Where We Work

We work in a big space. Engineering is everywhere. It’s in our buildings, cars, airplanes, and houses, of course. But it’s also in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the medicines we use, and the movies we watch. At its most elemental, it’s a habit of mind – design under constraint, providing creative solutions to improve our lives.

     And K-12 education is huge – about 55 million students, their parents, teachers, and school communities, working with purpose and determination to make the classroom a place of learning and growth for everyone in it. At stake is only the students’ future, along with that of the country they will grow up to shape and lead. As products of engineering become ever more varied and embedded in our lives, a bright future for all of us will require a widespread grasp of how these technologies and tools work and where they come from. Kids are born engineers – they love to learn how to make things, how things work, how to make them work better. Bringing engineering into the K-12 world plays into their natural curiosity and inventiveness, and it serves all kinds of general public interests.

Where We Come From

K-12 engineering outreach is great fun. Most of us at Start Engineering got the K-12 outreach bug working at the American Society for Engineering Education. All told, we’ve got over 30 years of experience in the field. At ASEE, we worked with anyone and everyone – deans and faculty members; companies, foundations, and non-profits; policy makers and elected officials. The people working to make engineering come alive for K-12 audiences are great to work with – they’re smart and passionate, quick to share, open to new ideas. We all seemed to agree that the high points always included direct contact with the K-12 world. Sharing time and doing things with teachers and students gave the work purpose and fueled our creativity and commitment.

Where We're Going

The cover of "Start Engineering," our upcoming career guide to engineering for high school students and their parents.

The cover of "Start Engineering," our upcoming career guide to engineering for high school students and their parents.

Start Engineering grew from a desire to continue and extend this work into as many areas of activity as our creative energies could take us. We want to make products and offer services that help people show how rich and rewarding engineering can be as a field of study and work. Our first book, Dream, Invent, Create, an “NSTA Recommends” title, has reached 10,000’s of elementary school students, helping to make engineering exciting and accessible to them. In early 2015, we’ll publish a guidebook for high school students, Start Engineering. It will highlight the cool work engineers do on things like electric cars, prosthetic limbs, environmental protections, apps and games, disaster relief projects, and much more. It will also lay out options for academic study, highlight high-achieving engineering students, and present data about enrollments and work prospects. Our goal is for this book to help students and their parents plot a course to the engineering school and field that are right for them.

     We hope you come back and read more of our blog, as it grows. We plan to examine all facets of K-12 engineering outreach, from programs and activities to success stories and challenges to messaging, including how to talk effectively about engineering to diverse student audiences. We will venture further out into the larger forces shaping the place of engineering in society, like workforce needs, demographics, and concerns about competitiveness and international education comparisons. And we also want to explore fun topics about all the ways that engineering shapes and improves our lives.

Please Be in Touch

Meanwhile, we’d love to hear what people are doing in K-12 engineering outreach. Let us know your successes and challenges, what you’ve learned or what you might like to understand more about. To provide a forum for exchange and learning in the field is a fond wish we have for this blog and for Start Engineering as a company. Any suggestions for how to do this are warmly welcomed.

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. A recovering English major, he thinks the Internet-age marriage of communications and technology is, well, really cool. You should write to him about this area, especially when he gets stuff wrong, at