Research indicates that the earlier students are introduced to engineering, the better chance there is of attracting them to careers in science and engineering. This push for more K-12 engineering education is fueled by concern of a future shortage of scientists and engineers in the United States. “Powering Up the Pipeline” looks at some innovative programs that Massachusetts and other states have launched to capture the interest of students at the elementary and secondary levels. While more and more states are offering some form of engineering or technology education at the high school level, Massachusetts has taken a strong lead. The state has designed a statewide assessment test in technology/engineering, and by 2010, students will have to pass a science or engineering test to graduate. If we face a shortage of engineers, however, we also face a shortage of STEM teachers in K-12 schools. One suggestion is that college faculty in math and science should encourage K-12 teaching as a career.
At Tufts University, a group of women engineering undergrads is out to debunk the engineer-as-geek stereotype. The group, known as “The Nerd Girls”, often surprises middle-school students with their obvious diversity and hipness. While not exactly Engineering Girls Gone Wild, a Nerd Girl might sport a tattoo or a pierced lip, point out she rows crew for Tufts or play a mean guitar. The group is drawn from various engineering disciplines, and the women collaborate on renewable energy and community service projects—from building a solar-powered race car to bettering the performance of monkeys trained to help quadriplegics. The article, “Piercings, Not Pocket Protectors”, covers the success of the group, which has, understandably, caught the attention of both the national press and Hollywood. Plans for a Nerd Girls reality TV series are being discussed. Resulting media exposure could get more kids interested in engineering.
In Germany, engineers are generally admired and respected, and the profession commands relatively high salaries. Yet many young German engineers are joining an exodus of professionals heading for countries abroad. The trend has alarmed business and political leaders as Germany has counted on its younger generation to jumpstart its moribund economy. Why do they leave? “Germany’s Bright Flight” reports on reasons for the brain drain and possible long-term solutions.
I would welcome hearing your comments on these stories or suggestions for other issues. I also look forward to seeing you at our fine upcoming annual conference in Hawaii.
Frank L. Huband
Executive Director and Publisher