Patrick Kurp, Engineering Communications
During National Engineers Week for 2017, Rice University delivered the message to more than 800 students and teachers that engineering is an excellent way to earn a living and help change the world.
“We’re interested in acculturating the next generation of engineering students. We want to prepare them for STEM opportunities and create a pipeline for new engineers. We want them to know Rice is an option” said Cesare Wright, outreach specialist and lecturer with the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership (RCEL).
The event was started in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers, and today is observed by more than 70 engineering, education, and cultural societies, and more than 50 corporations and government agencies in the U.S.
National Engineers Week kicked off at Rice on Feb. 19 with VISION 2017, an invitation-only program in which some 100 academically talented and ethnically diverse high-school seniors from around the country participated.
“The idea,” Wright said, “was to sway high-prospect students to select Rice. We wanted to make the university — and the engineering school in particular — attractive to them.”
In an event not formally a part of the National Engineers Week, 42 faculty members representing 10 predominately undergraduate schools in 17 states attended the Rice-sponsored, National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded S-Stem Capacity Building Workshop on Feb. 19–20. Held in the BioScience Research Collaborative, the workshop was aimed at improving the competitiveness of proposals for the NSF S-STEM program.
“There’s much help available from NSF. We just need to get that information out,” said Yvette Pearson Weatherton, associate dean for accreditation and assessment for the George R. Brown School of Engineering.
Some 500 students took part in the T.H. Rogers Science Night at the alternative primary and secondary school in Houston. RCEL and Trumball/Unmanned, a Houston company that integrates drones into the energy industry, hosted an educational booth on drones and aerial robotic technology.
On Wednesday, the engineering school and RCEL hosted Engineer Big. Dream Big. Lead Big: National Engineers Week Event at Rice University, in which 53 HISD seventh-graders took part in various engineering activities. Kaz Karwowski, RCEL executive director; David Van Kleek, RCEL professor in the practice; Weatherton and Wright organized and led the event.
While students were competing in the design challenge sessions, Wright and Shelea Majors, media specialist for the Houston Independent School District, led a professional development session for teachers that focused on best practices in project-based STEM learning.
“I had an awesome time at Rice and so did the students. We enjoyed coming out of the classroom for a few hours to brainstorm with other educators about ways to better engage the students. I wish there were more [activities] like it. I would love for this to be offered as an extended professional development seminar so that I could walk away with a completed lesson plan,” said Dahia Penrice, a STEM teacher at James Hogg Middle School in Houston.
The next day, teams from 10 HISD high schools made presentations to Microsoft representatives as part of Digital Learning Day, with Wright serving as a judge in the competition. Called Together with Tech, the district-wide technology contest was aimed at encouraging technology integration in K-12 classrooms. The final round of presentations was held in the Microsoft Technology Center.
“Every year for National Engineers Week we hope to have more outreach events involving more students and teachers. Next year, I’m sure we’ll be even busier,” Wright said.