Developing a School Visit
Tens of thousands of engineers participate in
the National Engineers Week Discover"E" program. The goal of the
program is to help improve student interest in technology, science and mathematics and to
show how those subjects are used in the real world. Engineers visit classrooms in
elementary, middle and senior high schools to engage students in hands-on discovery.
If you would like to organize a
Discover"E" program in your area, this page is a good guide. A copy is sent with each kit which can be found in the Eweek Product Catalog. You might also check with
the Discover"E" coordinator for your organization. The guide gives tips on how
to contact local schools, organize a local committee and more,
and includes sample letters to teachers and counselors. If you
are already planning to visit a local school, here are some tips for your presentation:
Try to discuss your presentation with the teacher in advance. During the meeting you can determine
your topic, discuss requirements such as a videotape machine, determine the number of
hand-outs you will need, etc. Suggest ways the teacher can prepare students for your
Use hands-on activities and visual
props to engage students. Several are available here.
Additional project ideas are available on the order form in this kit.
Personalize your presentation. Talk
about the most interesting projects you've worked on or the hardest problems you've
tackled. Discuss engineering in terms of current national and/or local events. Talk about
your own interests as a young student.
Be prepared to
answer questions, from "How much money do you make?" to "Where did you
go to school and was it hard?". Throughout your presentation and while answering
questions, show respect to the teacher and students.
Ask the teacher to evaluate your presentation so you'll be able to improve the next
one. An evaluation form is included in this kit or you can create your own.
Typically a classroom presentation
follows this format:
1. Teacher introduces
2. Engineer delivers
brief opening remarks about his/her background, employment discipline, overview of what
engineers do, etc. An outline of talking points for both older
and younger students is found in this kit.
3. Engineer conducts hands-on activity and/or shows videotape.
4. Engineer fields
questions and leaves mementos of visit.
Remember to send a thank you note to
the teacher, principal and others who supported your efforts. If possible, offer to extend
your participation. Some students may be intensely interested in what you do and want to
meet with you again or visit your office.
National Engineers Week is a perfect
opportunity to start a lasting partnership.
How To Start
If you would like to develop
and present an Engineers Week program to a local school, perhaps your child's school,
determine whether or not the school has local business partners, including your company,
that might be making National Engineers Week visits. You should also check with your
employer's community or educational affairs office for advice and touch base with any
local National Engineers Week Committee that might be planning local outreach programs. If
an organization already plans to work with your selected school, offer to participate. If
you're on your own, contact your child's math or science teacher. Read below for tips on
contacting the school and for developing your presentation.
If you are interested in
reaching more than one classroom and one school, and involving a number of local sponsors,
organize a Discover"E" committee to plan your program.
Build partnerships with
local businesses, universities, and engineering societies to help foster community spirit
and increase your leverage. Many successful Discover"E" committees enlist the
advice of local educators.
"All-Star" team of CEOs, university presidents, high-level government officials,
and other prominent engineers to recruit volunteers and visit with students in or out of
Make a list of schools to
be contacted. If the list is long, divide it among several committee
members/organizations. A coordinated approach is very important. Make sure there is only
one group contacting any school.
Before contacting schools,
be sure you will be able to commit enough volunteers to meet demand. Keep in mind that one
engineer is probably not enough to cover one school. A teacher may want him/her to visit
with every earth sciences class, for instance, requiring a full day of one volunteer's
time for just one teacher.
How will you recruit
volunteers? Ask engineers to visit their own children's schools. Contact the local chamber
of commerce and engineering societies to ask for help.
universities to involve faculty and engineering students. Each organization can assign a
coordinator responsible for recruiting a certain number of volunteers. Try to involve
engineers who reflect the diversity of your community.
Learn about the school(s)
you plan to approach. Are students there likely to be on the science and mathematics fast
track? Is there a large minority population?
Once you have your list of schools and have
outlined your program, contact your state and local science and math supervisors, local
principals, and teachers to request permission to make a classroom presentation. Be sure
to tell them that Discover"E" is a national program endorsed by the National
Science Educational Leadership Association and School Science & Mathematics
Association. Materials are developed in cooperation with educators. If you plan to use
video and interactive projects, say so. (This is especially important to hold the
attention of younger students.) They will help sell your proposal. Also, stress the
importance of your visit to help stimulate interest in math and science.
If you know which teacher you want to
work with, cut through the bureaucracy. Make direct contact by phone and by mail. Copy the
principal and department supervisor. Teachers are often hard to reach during the day, so
be sure to leave your home phone number. Consider teachers of science, math, computer
science, mechanical drawing, technology education (industrial arts), art (engineering
design applications), and social studies (expeditions, ethics, and engineering's impact on
Sample Letter to the Teacher
You and your students may
enjoy participating in a national outreach program called Discover"E"
("E" for engineering) during National Engineers Week, February
More than three million
engineers, teachers, and students will participate nationwide. Engineers will sponsor
extracurricular activities and visit classrooms to show students how math, science, and
engineering create the world around them and to introduce them to technical careers.
Discover"E" has been endorsed by the National Science Educational Leadership
Association and School Science & Mathematics Association.
I would like to invite you
and your students to participate in the local Discover"E" program. An engineer
from (organization) would be glad to visit your classroom. He/she would present an
introduction to engineering using a videotape and hands-on activity. There would be time
for questions. The engineer would be glad to tailor the presentation to your specific
curriculum needs. Background information is enclosed. I hope you will consider
(organization) a classroom resource. I look forward to talking with you in more detail. I
can be reached at (include daytime and evening phone numbers).
(Be sure to follow up your
letter with a telephone call.)
A Sample Letter to the
17-23 is National
Engineers Week. In conjunction with this program, (organization) will be visiting (school)
to talk with students about math, science, and technology and to introduce them to
technical careers. Engineers will be visiting (list teachers) on (dates).
To coincide with our
visit, I thought it would be helpful for your office to have copies of the enclosed
brochure, "Engineering & You".
This publication gives students general background information on engineering careers. You
might be interested to know that a recent survey by the National Society of Professional
Engineers shows that, in 1996, the median salary among experienced engineers was $65,800.
By discipline, petroleum engineering was the highest-paying at $80,500.
If you or your students
have additional questions about engineering careers, please contact me at (phone).
Meet The Teacher
Once the teacher invites you to make a
presentation, try to meet at the school. This personal contact is an important element in
being sure your presentation is on target. A teacher may have a specific need you could
help fill. For example, an earth sciences teacher may plan to introduce the topic of
protection of groundwater supplies during the week of your visit. You could offer some
real-world examples. Provide the teacher with a brief written description of the kind of
engineering projects you've handled and your educational background.
At this meeting confirm your visit date and time and discuss any requirements you have,
such as a video monitor, overhead projector, copies of handouts, etc. Teachers must order
equipment in advance. You should also visit the room where you will be speaking.
Many engineers visit individual classrooms, talking with groups averaging from 25-50 in
attendance. An intimate setting will allow a lot of give-and-take. Tell the teacher if you
prefer to visit a classroom, rather than to address an assembly.
Discuss how the teacher might prepare students for your visit and the possibility of
inviting parents to be present during your presentation. Parents can be key to holding
their child's interest after you've gone.
What to Expect
You're going back to school! Be sure to arrive
early enough to set up your presentation. Find out in advance if you need to sign in at
the main office. Once you're in the classroom, test your equipment, be sure your props and
notes are in order, and get ready. Distribute the Engineering & You brochure
(see Product Catalog) to
explain various engineering disciplines. Following are some tips on what you can expect in
the classroom and what students and teachers will expect of you:
- Help students understand your
expectations. Suggest you will take questions throughout your presentation and state how
you will respond, i.e., "When you raise your hand, please tell me your name."
- Don't expect students to be impressed by
a title. They'll judge you by how you act and what you say.
- Show respect to the teacher and
students. Students won't respect someone who doesn't respect them. You can address your
audience as ladies and gentlemen.
- When you ask for participation, try to
encourage everybody. Work in teams and assign roles when possible. Don't appear to exclude
- Remember that the younger the age group
the more activity you'll need to keep their attention. It is critical to show photographs,
engage students in hands-on projects, etc.
- Don't use jargon, and be sure the
information you present is at an appropriate level for the age group.
- Dress as you would for a day on the job.
Kids want the total image.
- Be enthusiastic and make the
presentation fun. Smile. It's important for these kids to know engineers are doing what
they love to do.
- Be sure to pace yourself to accomplish
your program within the time allotted (allowing time for questions and answers).
- Get students involved with the
presentation. Have student volunteers help hand out materials, hold models, etc.
- Don't be heavy-handed on a career pitch.
- Follow appropriate safety precautions
while conducting activities.
- If you plan on using a student video
provided by the National Engineers Week Committee (see the order form in your Planning Kit
or the online Product Catalog) be sure to review it in advance. It will stimulate student
Talking With Students
Engage students in conversation. For instance,
ask if anyone knows an engineer. "Can you guess what TV personality Bill Nye The
Science Guy and the head of NASA have in common?" (Both are engineers.)
Students are not at a loss for words.
Be prepared to answer the following questions from junior and senior high school students:
"If I can make more money with a
business degree than with an engineering degree, why should I become an engineer?"
"What do you do in a typical
"What do you like most/least about
"Where did you go to school and
was it hard?"
"Why did you become the type of
engineer you are instead of another kind?"
"What kind of job can you get as
"In your job, are there any
hazards to you or the environment?"
"Do I have to be a math or science
whiz to become an engineer?"
"Why should I become an
"How much money do you make?"
(Students will want to know whether or not engineering is a lucrative field. According to
a 1996 National Society of Professional Engineers survey, the median salary for
experienced engineers is $65,800. Compare that with other 1995 salaries, reported by the
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: accountants, $32,188; reporters, $32,084; and lawyers,
"Why did you become an
"What colleges offer
(Contact your professional society or
the Accreditation Board for Engineering and
Technology, Inc., 111 Market Place, Suite 1050, Baltimore, Maryland 21202.)
"What kinds of engineers are
Younger students may ask anything from
"Do you have any children?" to "How do bridges stand up?" to "Do
you drive a train?" Keep your answers simple and straightforward. Click here for special tips on working with younger students.
Working through school counselors is
another way to reach students. Go to the "Visiting A School" section to review a
Engineering: A Girl Thing
a Girl to Engineering Day" was launched during National Engineers
Week 2001 and was quickly embraced by groups across the country, reaching
an estimated one million girls annually. When you are working with young
girls, keep the following tips in mind. This advice is provided by the
National Academy of Engineering’s Celebration of Women in Engineering.
Have additional resources:
use the Internet! Have a sheet of good kids’ interactive sites (teacher
tested, kid approved). For example, there's www.discoverengineering.org
and www.nae.edu/cwe. (At this site,
Girl" for student interaction or the "Resources
and Links" section for information and rated websites for adult
- Remember that girls are more likely to
understand the basic math and science principles underlying the engineering demonstration,
especially while the students are in middle and early high school. Boys, however, are more
likely to be adept at manipulating technologies. Encouraging the girls to strut their
intellectual stuff will help them conquer their techno-shyness. Consciously giving girls a
chance to try the technology or application will help them overcome their tendency to step
back and let the boys do it all.
- Be a myth-buster! Common misconceptions
are technology is boring; math, science and engineering are for guys; boys do better with
numbers - girls do better with people; and scientists and engineers are geeks. Engineering
makes the world a better place to live, is exciting, and helps people. Engineering is a
- Girls are less likely to be interested
in the technology itself than in its application. Girls connect to the world through
emotions and will respond warmly when they see a positive aspect of an engineering
application. This does NOT mean that they are not capable of logical thought! Boys are
likely to enjoy the technology or application for itself, but will also enjoy an emotional
connection to the application.
- Girls are less likely to have
familiarity with engineering as a career, but will be very interested in the many things
that engineers do (not only kinds of engineering, but range of available career choices).
Talk about the kinds of careers that an engineer can have: research, development, design,
construction/production, sales, management, and other careers. People that like to work
with people (girls do!), people that want to do something to make the world a better place
(girls do this too), and people who are curious about the world around them (very girl
thing) all make excellent engineers.
- Talk about the engineering process, and
place your information within context of science principles, engineering application, and
social benefit. It's not just the application, it’s the problem you are trying to
solve, and how it benefits people.
Working With Younger Students
Every age group has different needs,
expectations, and abilities. While junior and senior high school students have reasonable
attention spans and have had some preparation in math and science that will help them
relate to your presentation, holding the interest of students in sixth grade and below
requires a bit more simplification and hands-on activity. Lower elementary students are
learning concepts and becoming independent learners.
The National Engineers Week Committee
encourages you to reach out to younger students. Use your imagination.
For instance, challenge them to have an
in-class invention convention. Have the teacher present a problem, such as designing a
product to help a disabled person, in advance of your visit, and see what they create.
Talk with them about their inventions and about how engineers help people. Award
certificates to everyone. Or, develop your own hands-on demonstration to do in class.
To give you some background on what
these younger students will be able to understand, here are some tips from "Sharing
Science with Children: A Survival Guide for Scientists and Engineers," prepared by
the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science.
Some typical science and technology
topics in younger grades:
- Electricity & Magnetism
5th and 6th grades--Static electricity, nature
of electricity, simple circuit, batteries, series and parallel circuits, safety.
3rd & 4th grades--Magnets, simple
compass, uses of magnets.
Earth & Space Science
5th & 6th grades--Ecology,
pollution, recycling, constellations, space travel, flight, oceans, water cycle,
properties of water.
3rd & 4th grades--Heat and light,
seasons, day, night, year, tides and eclipses, solar system, gravity, inertia and orbit,
comets, meteors and meteorites, space exploration.
For more information from "Sharing
Science," write Director of Education, North Carolina Museum of Life and Science, PO
Box 15190, Durham, North Carolina 27704.
Your Report Card
Be sure to have the teacher evaluate your
presentation. Evaluation forms are in the National Engineers Week kit. You might create
your own forms. Some points to consider:
- Would it have been helpful to spend more
time with the teacher in advance of the presentation?
- Were the support materials (brochures,
- What was not so interesting?
- What could have been improved?
- Would there be an opportunity to work
with students again this year or next?
Remember to write thank-you notes to
teachers, principals, and others at the schools who supported your efforts.
Don't end your contact with students
and teachers when you leave the classroom. Some students may be intensely interested in
what you do and want to meet with you again. They may want to visit your office to learn
more. The teacher may be eager to work with you to develop a field trip or judge a science
fair in the spring. Ask students to write to you with any questions. Leave paper and
self-addressed, stamped envelopes for them.
National Engineers Week is a perfect
opportunity to start a partnership. It's up to you to keep it going. If your organization
is willing to establish an ongoing partnership with a local school here are some tips:
- Evaluate the level of commitment—in
time, personnel, money, and hardware—your organization is willing to make. Consider
whether a school already has business partners and whether your organization can make a
- Discuss the most prominent student needs
with a teacher or principal. Be specific about the level of commitment your organization
- Together with the teacher, research a
one-year lesson plan, detailing projects your organization can participate in, i.e., judge
science fairs, mentor individuals, etc.
- For more information about partnership
programs around the country, contact the Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology
Education, 1201 New York Ave., NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC, 20005, tel: 202-289-2911.
Promoting Your Program
Your contributions to local
education are worth telling to the community. Following is a sample news release that can
be adapted, printed on your letterhead, and sent to your local newspapers. You might
invite reporters to attend a classroom program but be sure to check with the school first.
A Sample News Release:
and daytime phone)
Helps Local Students Discover Engineering
"(City, State)--(Date)--(Organization) will send engineers into area classrooms during National Engineers Week,
February 22-28. The national effort is led by Honorary Chair Alan
L. Boeckmann, Chairman and CEO of Fluor Corporation, and Chair
Joseph V. Lillie, Institute of Electrical and Electronics
Engineers. The outreach effort is part of the 14th annual
Discover"E" campaign, sponsored nationwide by the engineering
throughout the U.S. will reach more than five million students and teachers. Their goal
is to help bring practical applications of math, science, and technology to the classroom
and to increase student interest in those subjects. (Here insert quote from
local sponsors about the importance of the profession's outreach to young people.)
National Engineers Week is an annual event to help raise public awareness and appreciation
of engineers and their work.
In (City) the
program is sponsored by (name sponsors).
National Engineers Week
was founded in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers