Engaging young minds with Control Engineering
In December 2011, I posted an item on Consulting-Specifying Engineer about the State of Engineering Education – the conclusions were a bit startling to me; here are some notable bits of information I found out:
- It’s reported that only 45% of high school graduates are prepared for college-level mathematics and only 30% for science.
- Electrical Engineering degrees awarded have decreased by 15% from 2001 to 2010.
- Recent New York Times and Wall Street Journal articles point out that over 60% of engineering graduates are not working in technical fields post graduation, and the numbers of young engineers switching out of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields within the first two years is staggeringly high.
This is the perfect time to be discussing the state of engineering education and programs engaging students in STEM earlier in the education process since Engineers Week 2012 is February 19 – 25. I feel it’s important to highlight programs geared towards young engineers, STEM programs, and offer suggestions to grow our field for the future.
Of course, the National Engineers Week Foundation and Engineers Week is an excellent place to start. Over the last 61 years and through several events, Engineers Week brings attention to the need (and fun!) of increasing excitement and accessibility to STEM fields.
These engaging programs include: the Future City Competition, in which young engineers design cities of the future using SimCity 4 and 3D tabletop models; Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, which allows young women to learn directly from women in STEM fields ; and Family Day, which encourages families to get involved together with STEM education. Companies like IBM have joined Engineers Week, offering guidance and activities for students interested in engineering.
Companies traditionally thought of as toy makers are now moving into schools and universities, to assist in applying STEM education – one such company, Lego, has a line of products designed for this exact purpose.
College engineering programs across the nation are also looking to present more of the application of engineering, which often appears as a game but reinforces the principle concepts of fields like Control Engineering; one such example is a Dynamic Systems & Control course at Northern Illinois University, which utilizes a racing video game to teach the fundamentals of how to write algorithms for a machine to regulate itself.
What are you or your firm doing to increase awareness and interest in STEM fields? Discuss in the comments section or in Control Engineering’s LinkedIn Group online.