Day: April 4, 2019

Passing the Torch: Engineering Ambassadors Visit Local Schools

Barkell Elementary signSure signs of spring in the Copper Country are robins returning, ice leaving and Michigan Tech’s Engineering Ambassadors (AE) inspiring students.

For the eighth year, the engineering students that make up EA will visit local elementary and middle schools to create excitement for engineering disciplines through programs and hands-on activities designed for students in third through tenth grades.

Nancy Barr, professor of practice in engineering communications, said the Ambassadors present a 10-minute talk on a science or engineering topic to a classroom. Following the talk, the EAs engage students in a fun, 30-minute activity designed to reinforce the concepts presented in the talk. Each talk and accompanying activity are geared toward a particular age.

“The objective is twofold,” Barr said. “It helps our students develop confidence in their presentation skills and it gets younger students thinking about science and engineering as a possible career path.”

Barr said a unique aspect of the program is that it gives the college students an opportunity to share their own experiences with local school children. “We encourage our EAs to talk about why they chose engineering as a major, what cool projects they’ve had and where they plan to work after graduation. We try to recruit from across the College of Engineering, but the majority of students come from ME-EM.”

Jaclyn Johnson (ME-EM), advises EA, while Barr provides training on presenting science to young audiences and then offers feedback on their presentations.

The program, modeled after a similar program at Penn State, was started in 2012 by Michele Miller (ME-EM) a research professor and Danise Jarvey, director of academic services in the School of Technology.

Johnson said the program is part of a network of at least 30 Universities in the U.S. and internationally. “Since the fall of 2012, we’ve reached 2,936 students in eight schools within a 100-mile radius of Michigan Tech. During that time, we’ve had a total of 65 ambassadors.”

This spring, nine different AEs, working in pairs or groups of three, will visit two third-grade and three fifth-grade classes at the Barkell Elementary School in Hancock and four classes at Houghton Middle School. The program will run through April 12.

William Predebon, chair of ME-EM, said EA has been quite successful. “The Engineering Ambassador program is a terrific opportunity for engineering students to develop their communications skills and an important strategy to excite elementary and middle-school students to pursue engineering and science.”

More information can be found on the Engineering Ambassadors webpage.

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