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3 Ways to Get Kids into Engineering
October 20, 2017      

The engineering revolution has shaped the world we live in. But, with so much of our world relying on engineering, why are we starting to see a decline in the number of graduates in this field?

A recent study titled “Why the US science and engineering workforce is aging rapidly” found that part of the problem is “a decline in the retirement rate of older scientists.” If engineers are taking longer to retire, there are fewer opportunities for new graduates to make their mark in this field.

While some may think experience trumps all, it was also noted that “scientists are believed to be most creative earlier in their careers, so the aging of the workforce may slow the pace of scientific progress.” If this trend continues, it is likely that this revolution will slow down and negatively impact the world around us.

But the challenges our world faces, including global warming, over-population and shortage of clean water, are growing every day. We can’t afford to have a lack of engineers working to solve these problems.

We need to focus on how we can get youth interested in engineering. Here are a few fun ways to get them interested.

Putting Kids FIRST

The traditional education system that has been in place for most of our lifetimes is focused on a “one-size-fits-all” approach to learning. The problem with this methodology is that students all have their own differences in skills, interests and learning styles. By sticking to a certain pre-defined set of curriculum, many of these students miss out on the opportunity to become aware of and grow in fields in which that they could excel.

If the education system would concentrate on personalized learning, then students would be able to explore and master their talents and interests in a more appealing way with the hopes of keeping them fascinated in growing fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Making this type of change in the classroom cannot happen overnight. However, we can create our own personalized learning through afterschool activities.

For instance, I was introduced to the FIRST Lego League in 2006. FIRST Lego League was established to encourage children to design, construct and program their own intelligent Lego inventions. The program enables children to open up in different ways of thinking and cooperating than they would during traditional schooling.

MakeShift Robotics Pepper Robot
The Pepper robot from MakeShift Robotics

Programs like the FIRST Lego League go beyond just creating projects- it’s about building real-life skills needed to make presentations, showcase what they’ve built and talk about something they’re passionate about.

Continued Learning

While the FIRST Lego League is great for the youth in my surrounding area, there comes a time when they mature and soon move on to high school. High school is a time when young adults start to figure themselves out and question what they want to do or be in the future, which is why it is important to continue personalized learning and allow students to get involved in programs that help them flourish.

Even if a program like this does not exist in your area, that does not mean we should give up on these growing minds. For instance, I personally founded and became a lead mentor for MakeShift Robotics as a way to expose high school kids to the enjoyment and opportunity available through a career in engineering.

MakeShift Robotics encourages high school students to be more involved with STEM and has them participate in an annual robotics competition. Through this program students learn how to become critical thinkers, problem-solvers, makers instead of consumers and tomorrow’s leaders, which are greatly needed in today’s throwaway society.

Getting students actively involved in afterschool programs shows them that they need to work hard, not only from a materials stand-point (often recycling everyday objects to build their robots), but from a growth resource stand-point.

Creating a STEM Community

Engineers need to wholeheartedly believe that sharing the gift of knowledge in robotics and other similar fields will help inspire and educate children to become the future workforce who can play a key role in the sustained growth and stability of the world economy.

We need to come together as a community and experience the real-life application and implications of STEM and how they benefit our society and even our world as a whole. It is important for children to see that what they are learning now is applicable to not just their future but the future of the whole world, creating an interest often lacking when learning new concepts that do not seem to carry real-world application.