Filling the talent pipeline
Last spring more than 120 U.S. engineering schools pledged to educate a new generation of engineers equipped to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing society. The commitment came in the form of a letter that was presented to President Obama at the White House Science Fair. Among the signatories was Clemson’s Anand Gramopadye, dean of the College of Engineering and Science.
“The next generation of engineers needs a broad skill set to solve the challenges society faces in an increasingly complex and interconnected world,” he said.
“The work of our engineers and scientists has helped make the United States a global leader,” Gramopadhye said. “To insure that the nation maintains its competitive edge, we must keep the pipeline filled with talent, which is why our K-12 outreach programs are so important.”
The college has several active programs that serve to grab the attention of young people and introduce them to the benefits that can be found in STEM (science technology, engineering, and math) careers.
Every spring, a team of dedicated and enthusiastic faculty and students from Clemson University’s College of Engineering and Science travels throughout South Carolina to spark the interest of middle- and high-school students and encourage them to “Emagine!” a career in science or engineering.
At each stop, some 200 middle school students learn about engineering and science careers through a series of hands-on activities, including programming driverless vehicles, creating an air-powered car and using advanced materials to design a shatter-resistant plate. The students also hear from current engineering students and faculty about the rigors of an engineering curriculum and what they can do to prepare for college.
Now in its fourth year, Emagine! has reached nearly 5,000 students and parents across the Palmetto state.
WISE and PEER
The college’s WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) and PEER (Programs for Educational Enrichment and Retention) programs are academic support networks for women and underrepresented minorities, but the two organizations also sponsor outreach activities designed to encourage young men and women to consider careers in engineering and science fields and to introduce them to Clemson.
Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, gives girls a chance to try their hands at engineering while matching them them with female role models working in the field. Run in conjunction with the Girls Scouts of the Old 96 Council the program recently celebrated its 15th anniversary.
It’s a Girl Thing is a program targeting middle school girls in Anderson School District Five. The program introduces STEM in a safe and encouraging learning environment. The goal is to expose girls to nontraditional, educational, and professional career fields, while also increasing self-confidence. In addition to career awareness, It’s a Girl Thing provides training in career-supporting skills, such as team work, oral presentations, social skills, and an exposure to cultural and current events.
PEER SnapShot is a one-day recruitment event in which participants are able to attend a college class, have lunch and tour campus with a current Clemson undergraduate, and hear presentations from Admissions and Financial Aid.
Project WISE is a one-week residential camp held for rising 6-8th grade girls to introduce them to careers in STEM. Attendees receive hands-on learning experiences in science and engineering, which leads to an appreciation and understanding of how technical fields have an impact on them personally, and how exciting and rewarding careers in these fields can be.
STEM Day is a one-day recruitment day held in the spring semester for high school juniors. This program is sponsored by WISE and PEER and allows participants to attend workshops conducted by Clemson professors and enjoy lunch with a current Clemson undergraduate.
We Do Math is a one-week residential camp held in for rising 9-10th grade girls to build confidence and skills in mathematics and introduce them to careers in STEM.
WISE Choice is a one-day recruitment day held in the fall semester for high school seniors and in the spring semester for accepted Clemson students. Participants are able to attend a college class, have lunch and tour campus with a current Clemson female undergraduate. They also hear presentations from Admissions and Financial Aid.
Clemson University Center for Workforce Development
With manufacturing leading the way to economic recovery, Clemson University’s Center for Workforce Development (CUCWD) is developing programs that are helping students in the Palmetto state and across the country learn the skills that employers need in a modern manufacturing environment.
With funding from the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program, the CUCWD is developing virtual reality simulations as part of a broad curricula that includes online lectures, textbooks and assessments. More than 1,000 students, about half in high schools, are now using the curricula. The virtual reality simulations have been used in a quarter of the state’s technical colleges and in 17 two-year colleges outside the state. Curricula are provided at no cost. They teach basic skills, such as maintenance and safety, that students will need to get a job in a modern manufacturing plant. Now that companies are hiring again, economic development officials see a growing need for workforce education, particularly for workers that are dealing with technological changes.
The good news is that the Internet is opening doors that didn’t exist 15 or 20 years ago. Prospective students needn’t be held back by work schedules, family obligations or lack of transportation. With the right curriculum, students can study in a place and time of their choosing.
Some students may go directly into the workforce after taking the online and virtual reality courses CUCWD has developed. But the science, technology, engineering and math skills they learn will also position them for success if they should choose to further their education at Clemson.
The “A” in STEAM
Typically discussions regarding engineering and scientific careers and outreach involve the STEM fields. But more and more often there’s been a chorus of voices calling for the addition of an “A” to include mention of the arts. STEM expands to STEAM.
Recently Clemson University announced the launch of its STEAM network. Some 32 faculty and staff members are coming together to find new ways of adding the “A” for the arts into the STEM mix.
The announcement coincided with the creation of an exhibit for Artishpere which is nationally ranked as one of the top arts festivals in the United States and has proven to be a great place for Clemson University to connect with the community. Throughout the three-day event, parents and educators took advantage of a number of STEAM initiatives.
At Clemson’s exhibit, parents and children were able to:
- Code “Scribbler Robots” to draw in an elevated sandbox
- Perform dance steps in real-life and then program an animated character to do the same
- Use audio files and a cell phone to draw with a robot
- See how light wavelengths affect pigment on fabric, M&M’s and other items
- Create a design with a web-based “morphing tool,” then print it to take home
- Admire the inspiring and powerful pictures that show science as art
- Learn about the Indigo Pine home students are creating from interlocking plywood
- Hear a sculptor describe how math and science are used to create 3D art
- Watch artists demonstrate printmaking and ceramic techniques
The goal of the new STEAM initiative is to help inspire creativity and recruit a more diverse mix of students to engineering and the sciences.