Building diversity in the engineering profession

The next generation of engineers, and the one after that, may be much different. Video: Visiting where kids are learning what engineering is about and loving every minute.


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Visit the Chicago Pre-College Science and Engineering Program.

From time to time we’ve talked about the demographic time bomb the engineering profession is facing with an aging workforce and too few people pursuing it as a vocation. For those wringing their hands about the future, here’s a bit of good news: Come and meet Kenneth Hill, a man who is dedicated to bringing new communities into the engineering profession, and he has taken responsibility to make it happen.

The video is a visit to his “little engineers” program where he takes Chicago school children, beginning in kindergarten, and builds a foundation for them to understand math, science, and engineering in a way that they will be solidly prepared to go to a college or university and compete with the best in an engineering curriculum.

Hill has been building ChiS&E (Chicago Pre-College Science and Engineering Program) to develop kids from traditionally educationally underserved communities. Beginning in kindergarten, he has created programs that make the students understand what engineering is about. They learn the different kinds of engineering, problem solving, math, science, and critical thinking.

So far, in the ChiS&E program, the oldest kids are fifth-graders. They’re the ones that were in the first class of kindergarteners and the program has added a new grade level each year. Eventually the program will be a comprehensive K-12 curriculum turning out students from African-American and Latino communities well positioned to succeed in any university engineering program.

This program is patterned after one Hill helped form in Detroit, DAPCEP. (See an earlier story.) It has been very successful and helped produce countless engineers. In a eight or nine years, it will be much the same in Chicago.

There are ways for people in our professions to help ChiS&E. It’s a very modest program and gets a lot of bang from every buck. In the video, Hill explains the kind of help he’s seeking. You’ll also see how deeply committed parents and teachers are to the program. And the kids really like it too. In a few years they may be applying for jobs at your company, and you will want to hire them.

Peter Welander,

Michael , LA, United States, 12/10/13 04:16 PM:

This is truly impressive. We need more programs like this for kids everywhere - a lot more. We have allowed engineering to become perceived as a boring profession. I became an engineer because I wanted to create things (and sometimes break things to better understand how they worked!) and make exciting things happen for me and for others! At 66, my dreams have been fulfilled many times over, but it appears that a lot of young people these days don't even have dreams - they just exist. Engineering is about making everyone's dreams come true. Spread the word!
Ben , , 12/18/13 06:34 AM:

Dr./Mr. Kenneth Hill, I must say this is a wonderful program. I work as a part time lecturer and college counselor and will like to start a program like this in Accra-Ghana for children in my neighborhood. What are your suggestions for a beginner? Thank you. Dr. Fiebor.
Frank , PA, United States, 12/18/13 08:14 PM:

I would also like to see or implement a program like this in our schools. Maybe an evening course where children can learn what they want and enjoy it -a way to make it interesting but also enticing! ANY information you could send my way would be appreciated.