Michigan Tech American Indian Science & Engineering Society hosted the Region V conference on the university campus on April 12-14th, 2012.
The conference–”A Traditional Path Into The Future”–is geared towards making native students aware of the benefits of pursuing education in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math), while maintaining their traditional values. It begins at 9 a.m., Friday, April 13, in the Memorial Union Ballroom.
As part of the conference, an evening Activity with Joan Chadde, Education Program Coordinator of the Western Upper Peninsula Center for Science, Mathematics
and Environmental Education and Dr. Neil Hutzler, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan Technological University presented a Family Engineering workshop for the conference attendees. They are authors of the recently published Family Engineering Activity Guide.
The Family Engineering program was initiated by the Foundation for Family Science, the American Society for Engineering Education and the Boston Museum of Science.
Supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the program helps families work together to discover what engineering is, how to solve engineering problems and hopefully inspire some youngsters to pursue education and careers in engineering. Typically, families gather at community schools in the evenings to do hands-on engineering activities being developed by the family engineering team.
The sessions involve a dozen activities, like “Are You an Engineer?” in which participants are asked if they played with Legos (mechanical), or created concoctions (chemical), “until everyone has raised their hand at least once,” Hutzler says.
Other activities reveal nature’s inspiration for modern engineering marvels: the Common Burdock burrs begat Velcro; the octopus, the suction cup; the kingfisher, bullet-train design, and more.
Moms, dads, and kids build cantilevers with dominos, discover laminates’ strength with note cards in an activity called “Glue is the Clue,” and create towers of spaghetti and marshmallows that can withstand strong winds.
The need for the program certainly exists, according to Hutzler. Recent research has revealed that
• Eighty-five percent of students aged 8–17 are not interested in a engineering career.
• Only 20 percent of parents have or will encourage their children to consider an engineering career.
• Universities in the United States had 11 percent fewer engineering graduates in 2005 than in 1985.
• High-tech companies have been issuing the “crisis warning” about engineering shortages for at least two decades.
And parents are vitally important to students’ attitudes towards—and success with— science, math, and the careers that come from studying them.
The Family Engineering website is at http://www.familyengineering.org
More pictures at the College of Engineering Flickr Phot Gallery
More Details about the AISES Conference at Michigan Tech