The University of Iowa College of Engineering recently announced a partnership with Engineer Your World, a program designed to help high-school students interpret the engineering world and become more actively involved in the field.
“Our innovative, student-centered curriculum engages learners in collaborative, student-directed projects that build creative problem-solving and engineering design skills, teach the value of collaborating to solve complex, modern problems, and create a strong foundation for future STEM learning,” the Engineer Your World website says.
Engineer Your World is derived from six basic principles of design: Tightly Scaffolded, Engineering Design Process is Central, Authentic Engineering Practices, Math and Science are the Tools of Engineering Design, The Message Matters, and There is No Right Answer.
Engineer Your World is also a part of the Iowa STEM Scale-Up for 2019-20, a program through the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council that offers pre-K-12 programs.
David Rethwisch, a UI chemical and biochemical engineering professor, said that in a partnership with the University of Texas-Austin, the program hopes to bring more diverse backgrounds to the UI Engineering College and appeal to a broad range of students.
“What’s particularly interesting about the Engineer Your World curriculum is that the content is written to say, ‘As an engineer, you’re making people’s lives better,’ ” he said.
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Many of the projects the program promotes are those that tend to better different areas of the world. One of the projects involves a pinhole camera designed for the use of someone who is physically challenged.
Another includes a shaker table, in which future engineers construct a building on the shaker table, which simulates earthquakes, in order to design a safe space.
“They’re being made aware that you don’t just design these projects for fun but rather to help others,” Rethwisch said.
Many females and minority students tend to leave STEM fields by the time they’re enrolled in junior high school, Rethwisch said, and the program aims to interest all students in joining STEM fields and be exposed to the coursework.
Chelle Lehman, a College of Engineering outreach director, said the K-12 School Engagement Team in the college works with two teacher-training programs: Engineer Your World and Femineers.
“We hope to bring engineering opportunities to high-school students across Iowa with a special emphasis on schools that have not previously been able to offer engineering courses,” Lehman said.
Madeline Slater, a third-year UI biomedical engineering student, said her high-school classes in the Chicago suburbs didn’t offer any engineering-related coursework, but she sees the importance in implementing such programs for Iowa high schools.
“I found a passion for engineering when I thought about what classes I excelled in during high school and how I could turn what I enjoyed into a major,” she said. “I knew that I loved math and science, so I was able to find a way to combine them within engineering — along with a love for problem-solving.”