It's Elementary: National Engineers Week Looks To Share Its Message With An Ever Younger Audience
|For Immediate Release |
July 17, 2001
|Donald Lehr - The Nolan/Lehr Group |
Aiming to reach the very young with a message about the importance of engineering, technology and science, National Engineers Week 2002 plans to establish a nationwide training program for volunteer engineers to work with 6- to 11-year-olds. Designed in conjunction with the popular PBS television show "ZOOM," the training will teach engineers how to use a new hands-on activity kit that explores the fun and fascination of engineering.
The outreach initiative -- "ZOOM Into Engineering" -- is the latest salvo in National Engineers Week's efforts to get more people into the profession's "pipeline" sooner, so that they have enough secondary math and science education to enter college engineering programs. Expanding engineering career opportunities can help America maintain its competitive edge in hi-tech industries in the face of an expected shortage of qualified engineers. If current trends continue, more and more nations will be vying for a shrinking pool of talented workers, leading some to warn of a coming "war for talent" between America and other nations.
The engineering profession is reaching out to young people with several programs aimed at different age groups. Over the past nine years, the National Engineers Week Future City CompetitionTM has reached tens of thousands of middle school students. The ongoing "DiscoverE" program, which saw some 40,000 volunteers successfully reach more than 5.5 million K-12 students and teachers in 2001, is expected to continue to expand. National Engineers Week 2002, February 17-23, is co-chaired by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), celebrating its 150th anniversary, and DuPont, celebrating its 200th anniversary.
Other National Engineers Week 2002 outreach will include the second annual "Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day," inaugurated in 2001. Though other programs, notably "Take Your Daughter to Work Day," invite children to spend a day visiting workplaces, "Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day" is believed to be the first career outreach day that showcases a single profession. Women are vastly underrepresented in the engineering profession, surveys show, and at least part of the reason is a lack of encouragement for girls in middle and high school math and science courses. Further, experts estimate that if women, underrepresented minorities, and people with disabilities were represented in engineering at the same levels they hold in the general workforce, the predicted shortage of qualified engineers would be eliminated.
Last year, Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day reached hundreds of thousands of girls. More than 90 partnering organizations participated, led by an ad-hoc committee representing 2001 co-chairs IBM and the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), along with MentorNet, Women in Engineering Programs & Advocates Network, Girl Scouts USA, the National Academy of Engineering and the Society of Women Engineers. In 2002, the program hopes to have the support of more than 100 organizations and reach one million girls.
The National Engineers Week Future City Competition, entering its 10th year, will expand to 30 sites, up from 25 in 2001. The competition asks middle school students, working under the guidance of teachers and volunteer engineers to build, first on computer and then in three-dimensional scale models, cities of tomorrow. They must also defend their designs to a panel of engineer judges at the competition, and research and write essays. Students begin the project in the fall. Regional competitions are held in January, with winners going to national finals in Washington on February 19 and 20. Sites include Albany (New York), Buffalo, Southern California, Chicago, Colorado, South Florida, Hampton Roads (Virginia), Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Las Vegas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Milwaukee, Minnesota, New York City, Northern Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Omaha, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, San Francisco, Texas-Fort Worth/Dallas, Texas-Houston, Washington, D.C., and Washington State. For more information, visit www.futurecity.org.
Besides student outreach, National Engineers Week supports the unique online "Sightseers Guide to Engineering" at www.engineeringsights.org, which debuted on February 18. The site, created by NSPE, celebrates all things engineering in all 50 states. It encourages the public to recognize the engineering achievements around them and understand their importance in everyday life, and welcomes additional entries.
Finally, the National Academy of Engineering will present the $500,000 Charles Stark Draper Prize, the profession's highest honor for engineering achievement and innovation, at a black-tie dinner on February 19. NAE will also inaugurate a new prize in 2002, the Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education, which carries a $500,000 cash award. In 2001 the Draper Prize went to the founders of the Internet: Dr. Robert Kahn, Dr. Vinton Cerf, Dr. Lawrence Roberts, and Dr. Leonard Kleinrock. The inaugural, biennial Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize, also worth $500,000, went to Wilson Greatbatch and Earl Bakken, who engineered the first human heart pacemaker. For more information about the NAE and its prizes, visit www.nae.edu/awards.