Attracting Students to Engineering Education - Embedded.com

Attracting Students to Engineering Education

To enhance the competitiveness of the US workforce it is essential to improve the quality of education in the country’s K-12 and higher education systems. The government has recognized the challenge in this regard and is leading nationwide effort in raising awareness and improving the standards of education.

Due to budget shortages, however, many public schools continue to face challenges in finding the resources for quality education. To meet the needs for the 21st century workforce and maintain America’s leading edge in technology, the education system has to continue to improve for providing the young generation the necessary skill set. There is increasing demand in highly skilled personnel who have the right preparation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

A study has shown that encouraging young people to make a difference in the world through the use of engineering and technology will likely attract them than emphasizing the challenge of math and science skills. Knowing that they can actually make a difference has a powerful impact in their perception about science and engineering education.

To offer opportunities and attract highly motivated and talented high school students to pursue college preparation programs, many universities and community colleges offer pre-college educational programs. These are typically run during summer, but some institutions also offer year-round programs.

This paper   describes a pre-college summer program in robotics and Smartphone programming that is developed for high school students with the goal of attracting them to the field of engineering. The program offers great opportunities for the participants to appreciate the practical value of their academic curriculum and at the same time develop their creativity, problem solving, communication, and team skills.

Historically robots have been mostly used for industrial manufacturing applications, although emerging areas in medical, space, security, military, entertainment, and service applications are gaining momentum in the recent years. In the academic community also there have been growing efforts at many K-12 schools to motivate students in STEM education through participation in robotics competitions. A well-known example in this regard is the FIRST, which organizes a number of regional and national robotic competitions.

The long-term objective of this summer program is to increase awareness about the Computer Engineering and related fields of study, for high-school students in our surrounding region. The impact will be measured by conducting surveys that look at the number of applicants for our program, the number of those who participate, their diversity in gender and ethnicity, and its impact in their perception about the summer program, Computer Engineering, and STEM in general.

Even though it may take a few more years to see the actual long-term impact of the program, the preliminary survey results from two years in a row demonstrate that there is high level of satisfactions with the program. High percentage of students liked the educational environment provided by the camp and Kettering University in general, and most of them highly recommend our summer camp to others.

Through this summer program Robots and Smartphones are shown to be effective, fun and engaging tools for motivating and attracting students in to STEM programs. It gives the students great satisfaction when they are able to build their robots, program them to perform specific tasks, and give their robots capabilities to sense the environment to detect and avoid obstacles, or navigate in a maze.

Also, the practical activities the students perform on robots, sensors, programming, and the Smartphone apps they develop give them excellent exposure into the fields of Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, and other related STEM fields.

To read more of this external content, download the complete paper from the author archives at ASEE-NE.org.

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