Model for undergraduate outreach project involving community engagement
The United States needs more engineers in order to meet the demands of our economy and workforce. To spark interest in engineering and engage the community, undergraduate engineering students enrolled in a Strength of Materials course were required to create and implement an outreach activity. The activity was designed to engage the students in an engineering concept while also learning what engineers do and the broad scope of engineering. Working with students one morning at the local middle school with hands on activities, the undergraduates presented concepts of buoyancy, electricity, strength of materials, and mechanics. The middle school students were asked to fill out a survey designed to gauge their perceptions of engineering before the activities began. In addition, the undergraduates were given an open ended reflection framed as a "What happened?" "So what does it mean?" and "Now what will you do?" prompt. The responses were coded and tallied. The middle school students showed they have stereotypes about what an engineer does. When asked to draw an engineer, students drew males (77%), tools (63%), and hardhats/caps (32%). Thirty-six percent of the students did not know an engineer; of those that did, 74% were males. A majority of undergraduates (66%) believed that the outreach program was successful in sparking interest in the middle school students. Undergraduates were also enthusiastic about continuing outreach projects after graduation (77%) and were invited back by the middle school teachers for future outreach activities. This project formed an important link between the college and the community. This relationship will lead to more opportunities for future outreach projects and a more knowledgeable community on engineering. In addition, this outreach project exposed the undergraduates to the demand for more engineers and encourages them to continue outreach in community. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2013.