Posts Tagged ‘engineering’

Edible Car Contest Provides Students With Valuable Engineering Lessons

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

edible car

National Engineering Week is upon us, once again. From February 19-25 this year, the week will celebrate the positive contributions engineers make to society and is a catalyst for outreach across the country to kids and adults alike.

As part of this week, the Illinois Valley Community College (IVCC) hosts an annual competition designed to help students get a taste of engineering. This popular event, engages students of all ages in various aspects of STEM studies by bringing together groups to craft and develop model cars that are judged on design, speed, and creativity, among other categories.

And, as the name reveals, what makes this program unique is that all of the automotive entries are made entirely of edible food.

“We knew that designing vehicles from food would challenge students to solve problems and be creative, skills that are critical in [the field of] engineering,” IVCC’s Dorene Perez recently told mywebtimes.com. As Program Coordinator of Computer Aided Engineering and Design at IVCC, Perez is one of the contest organizers who first introduced the event to IVCC in 2006. Since then, the IVCC team has not only overseen seven contests (winning entries have included a cucumber-based vehicle that broke track records for speed and a Twinkie-mobile that nabbed design kudos) but have gone on to put together a “how to” handbook and led national workshops to encourage and assist other educators and schools in developing and launching their own Edible Car Contests. Besides cucumbers and Twinkies, car bodies entered in the contest have been constructed from hot dogs, ice cream cones and a loaf of bread, while wheels have been crafted from pinwheel pasta, cookies, Moon Pies and carrot pieces.

The contest has included as many as 130 students on 35 different teams, providing a wide range of learning opportunities, from calculating ratios, wheel sizes, body size and weight for the vehicle to calculating the car’s cost effectiveness and determining its nutritional value. Following the contest’s conclusion, students analyze and discuss both why the car performed as it did in speed or distance and how these features could have been improved.

Whether it’s velocity, acceleration or nutrition, the opportunity to introduce theoretical concepts is a key component of the event. Assessments have included the wheel performance of the Oreo cookie and the aerodynamic properties of miniature marshmallows. (Student designers of last year’s winning entry in the speed category, the aforementioned cucumber model, gained a significant advantage by keeping the car’s peppermint stick axels wrapped in plastic to protect them from moisture until racing time. They also made use of cooking spray on the axels go gain their final competitive edge.)

IVCC has been nominated for a prestigious 2012 Bellwether Award for the Edible Car Contest. The national award recognizes outstanding and innovative community college programs. The award finalists were recognized at the Community College Futures Assembly in Orlando, Florida just last weekend. The 2012 Edible Car Contest will be held at IVCC on February 22.

Resource List for Career Exploration

Friday, January 13th, 2012

How do you get high school students interested in a career in science? It all starts with exposure and image. Traditionally, high school is a time when realistic considerations of one’s future first come into play and related choices are made. Developmentally, the cognitive skills of these students are at an intersection where their current abilities, their sense of achievement and their thoughts about their future all come together. If they do not feel immediately successful at a task, they will often quit or move on to something else. Students at this level are busy establishing their identities, integrating the likes and dislikes of others, and weighing the relevance of outside influences. Ultimately, when they emerge from adolescence, they will be asked to make choices for their futures (e.g., choose a college and declare a major or enter the workforce). It is for this reason that it is so important to provide them with as much information about different job opportunities and exposure to careers in the STEM fields as possible. ATETV is one resource for this. Others include:

Career Cornerstone
The Sloan Career Cornerstone website provides some career information, profiles, video clips and advice on educational pathways to specific STEM Careers.

Careers in Welding
An American Welding Society and National Center for Welding Education & Training (Weld-Ed) web portal that profiles careers, offers fun facts and other information about welding, profiles companies and showcases videos.

Discover Engineering
From the site:”Engineering is not science. Engineers generally don’t “do” science. Science is about discovering the natural. Engineering is creating the artificial.” Tune in to the Discover Engineering Web site to learn what engineering is, read about various careers, try cool engineering activities and watch informational videos.

Dream It. Do It.
Dream It. Do It. is a nationwide effort supported by the National Association of Manufacturers, employers within the manufacturing economy and other groups around the country. Their Web-site offers a career toolkit and videos related to high-tech manufacturing jobs.

Engineer Girl
Aimed primarily at middle school girls, the Engineer Girl Web-site has profiles of women in engineering, discusses what classes should be taken in high school and explores engineering careers for women.

Engineer Your Life
The sister site to Engineer Girl, this site is a guide to engineering specifically geared to high school girls. This site is a place where they can go to read about their dream jobs and meet inspiring women.

Engineering K12 Center (American Society for Engineering Education)
eGFI is proudly brought to you by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). This group is committed to promoting and enhancing efforts to improve K-12 STEM and engineering education. On their site you can find out how to become an engineer, read through college information, and check out spotlights of people working in the field.

Gotta Have IT (National Center for Women & Information Technology)
NCWIT has multiple outreach campaigns and career information including Gotta Have IT is an all-in-one computing resource kit designed with educators’ needs in mind. A select set of high-quality posters, computing and IT careers information, digital media and more, the resource kit builds awareness and inspires interest in computing. Gotta Have IT is for all students, but is especially inclusive for girls.

I-SEEK Careers: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
I-SEEK is Minnesota’s career, education and job resource. Here you will find multiple ways to assess your skills and explore related careers, all the relevant information you will need on planning your education and tips on how to find a job.

Internet Science and Technology Fair
From October through February of each year, student teams apply technology to real-world problems when they participate in the ISTF. They form teams and complete online investigations in science, engineering, and other technical fields. Each team then gets the opportunity to work with a practicing scientist or engineer who acts as the team’s on-line technical advisor. The ultimate goal is that through this experience, the students will become more interested in science careers and understand the innovation process.

LifeWorks
An interactive career exploration web site for middle and high school students sponsored by the National Institutes of Health with information on more than 100 medical science and health careers by title, education required, interest area, or median salary. Alternatively, the “Career Finder” can be used to generate a customized list of careers especially suited for users’ skills and interests.

STEM Career
A brokering site that supports STEM advocates by providing information on STEM initiatives, student access, and career readiness.

STEM Career Depot

State-of-the-art career assessment and planning resources for everyone

Texas Instrument Student Zone
Texas Instrument offers STEM career resources for students to explore, STEM degrees, careers, courses, and projects.

The Fun Works
This project is a compilation of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) career development information for middle school and early high school youth. The goal is to create a comprehensive career development resource that is inviting and engaging the diverse populations of middle and early high school students, that builds on their diverse interests, and draws them into a range of career exploration options and resources.

Virtual Skies
Produced by NASA for use in high schools and flight technology programs, Virtual Skies explores the worlds of aviation technology, air traffic management, and current research.

Vocational Information Center- Manufacturing Career Guide

Explore careers in Manufacturing with the following links to job descriptions, which include information such as daily activities, skill requirements, salary and training required. To learn more about the Manufacturing Industry, follow the related links below the career descriptions section.

Women Tech World
“A national on-line home for women technicians to connect with each other.” For those interested, this site offers information about various technical careers, profiles of current professionals and FAQs for females interested in pursuing STEM careers.

You Can Be Anything
A video and lesson plan using the power of media to give young people, particularly girls and young women, a very positive impression of the career opportunities available in information technology (IT) and science-related fields where technology plays a major role.

Help Wanted: Women Engineers

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Last year, an article in the business magazine Forbes, highlighted “The Best-Paying Jobs That Women Aren’t In”. The magazine used a 2008 Department of Labor list of “nontraditional” jobs for women, coupled with 2008 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on earnings by occupation to calculate 20 occupations that women might want to reconsider.

Number Two on the list — just behind chief executive positions — were engineering jobs. According to Forbes’ calculations, females make up only about 12 percent of all engineers and engineering technicians, yet it’s one of the best-paying and fastest-growing fields today.

Why so few women engineers? It may be that engineering has often been perceived as an “introverted” field with its heavy focus on math and science and solitary work environment. But, as Forbes reports, colleges and industry have more recently begun promoting engineering as a job that can be both creative and collaborative, career considerations that are more likely to appeal to females.

Both Elaine Craft and Tressa Gardner of the SC ATE Center at Florence Darlington Technical College agree that the field of engineering needs more women. “We don’t have nearly as many women [enrolled in engineering classes] as we’d like,” Tressa told ATETV. And, as Elaine noted, “We need to make [engineering] careers more attractive to women. Females can be successful in ways they never realized.”

We did a little digging and came up with two websites that provide a lot of resources and background about engineering careers, including one that’s specially geared to women in science and technology fields. As both sites describe in plenty of detail, engineering offers women a wide variety of job opportunities — and it’s anything but dull!

The first site, TryEngineering, even has as its tagline, “Discover the creative engineer in you.” Here, you’ll learn, for example, how engineers develop sustainable energy solutions and design the electronic devices that enhance the quality of our everyday lives. You’ll find find job descriptions, educational opportunities, lesson plans and exercises that help illustrate and illuminate specific jobs and the day-to-day experiences of engineers. For example, the section “Explore Engineering,” introduces web users to both practicing engineers and engineering students who describe, in their own words, what it’s like to be in the field of engineering. The site breaks out career paths by majors (for both Engineering and Engineering Technology) covering a total of 25 major specialities including chemical engineering, civil engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering.

Try Engineering provides preparation tips and advice on what classes to take, describes the work life of an engineer, and, through its Game section, lets you build a bridge or a lifeboat, learn about simple and compound machines, or choose the pipeline strategy best suited for various sections of the Alaska terrain.

The second site we found, Under the Microscope is geared to women who are in or are considering jobs in science and technology, including engineering. A profile section (Under the Lens), introduces readers to real women, such as Megan Chann, who describes in detail her summer internship as an engineer at the Alcoa-Howment manufacturing plant, where parts are made for jet engines. Under the Microscope also offers a long list of resources (Top Summer STEM Internships for 2011; Top websites to explore; Careers in Science; Scholarship Opportunities; even Smart Phone apps!) One of the lists that looked particularly valuable was the Top 10 Mentoring Resources for Women in Science and Engineering.

Who knows, maybe the next time around, engineering will be in Forbes business magazines’ lists of the Top 10 Best-Paying Jobs that Women ARE In!

Secrets to Getting a Great Job and Building a Financially Rewarding Career

Friday, December 10th, 2010

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you NOTHING. It was here first.” ~Mark Twain

Why would someone hire you?

    Understanding the real world of work: 3 secrets to your success

The first secret to getting a great job and building a financially rewarding career is to understand that you need to be contributing to “the bottom line” (success/profit) every day. Unless your employer is better off with you than before you were hired, you probably are not needed. If what you are doing does not require you to think, analyze, make decisions, collaborate with co-workers and/or customers and make things happen, it is possible that a robot can do the job. Here is the pertinent question: what have I done today to contribute to the success of the organization and make it more profitable? Your personal success and financial gain can only be realized if your employer gets there first.

The next secret is to equip yourself with the right skills and knowledge. Enroll in a college program for which graduates are in demand. Engineering Technology programs produce graduates that are always in demand. Engineering technicians are essential for much of the work that must be done right here in the USA from power generation to building roads, bridges or buildings to manufacturing. Get really good at understanding how systems work, with hands-on technology, and with trouble-shooting and problem solving. You will be in demand.

Did you know that 80% of people who fail on the job fail due to lack of interpersonal skills— not lack of technical skills? It should not be a surprise that the last secret is to exhibit attitude-related behaviors that employers expect and reward:
• Take responsibility for yourself
• Contribute to others’ success
• Put customers first
• Be a “team player”
• Volunteer and show some initiative
• Follow the rules
• Work the hours you’re paid for
• Exceed expectations
• Keep your commitments
• Get with change
• Be considerate of tohers
• Don’t “Whine” or spread negativity
• Give, and earn, respect
• Embrace diversity
• Keep learning
• Ask for feedback
• Be patient
• Be appreciative
• Think “safety”
• Think “health” Look your best Keep the boss informed
• Act like an “owner”
• Focus on the big 2: increase revenue, decrease costs
• Perform with ethics and integrity

    Getting there from here

Starting in high school is perfect. Sign up for classes that expand your experiences and thinking beyond the core required subjects. Take advantage of dual credit when you can so that you earn college credit while still in high school. Be strategic in choosing your electives. Try anything available that involves hands-on technology or applied science. See what you like and what you seem to be good at doing. Math, science, technology, and engineering (STEM)-based careers have the greatest demand for workers and pay the best. STEM-based career choices are growing daily, moving into new and emerging technology fields that did not exist just a few years ago. You can be on the cutting edge for the future just by choosing to make STEM your focus. Meanwhile, don’t blow off your core subjects. You need strong foundation in basic math, science, and English. Your future success depends on giving these subjects your best effort. You don’t have to love them, but you do need to achieve the highest level of mastery possible. Doing so will pay off time and again in your future. You don’t want to have to study these core subjects at the same level again in the future, so get it right and soak it in the first time!

Choose an engineering technology or related program at your local technical or community college. Investigate options that may be new to you such as robotics. Look for a program that provides internship, co-op (cooperative education), or apprentice opportunities while you are in college. Having an opportunity to work for a local employer while you are in college is the single best way to land a job upon graduation. Paid internships are ideal because you can earn while you learn, but any on-the-job experience will give you a competitive advantage when you look for a job after graduation. In an internship, you will get to know the employer and work environment and the employer will be able to assess your attributes and see how well you fit into the organization. Also, you may discover what you really don’t want to do the rest of your life. It is better to find out sooner than later.

Work at developing the broadest skill set possible. Consider a double major (mechanical engineering technology and robotics, civil engineering technology and engineering graphics). Choose your electives to enable you to acquire special knowledge and skills. Your unique combination of knowledge and skills may give you the competitive edge when interviewing for jobs.

Observe those who currently work at the company when you are seeking employment (park nearby and watch people coming to work or leaving work). Then, go home and look in the mirror. If your appearance and dress are dramatically different than those you’ve observed, you may need to consider what this means for you. As the old saying goes, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” It is human nature to be suspicious or to misunderstand those how appear radically different. Specific dress, hair, etc. codes may be required at a company for safety or other reasons. Can you adapt? Is it more important to get a job than to make a statement?

If you provide a telephone number so that a potential employer can reach you, make sure that your voice message is appropriate for the business world. What may seem to be fun or cute to your friends may be totally inappropriate for handling business calls. Failure to demonstrate that you grasp the basics of the business world and associated etiquette will de-rail you on the path to success.

ATETV Episode 26: Growing a Competitive Workforce

Monday, March 15th, 2010

This week, we learn about an agriculture curriculum and an Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Center of Excellence that are helping to promote growth — literally and figuratively!

In our first segment, we meet Dan Miller, a student in the GPS and GIS program at Kirkwood Community College who is studying to be a “cutting-edge” farmer.

“I grew up on a farm with my father, and that’s what started my interest in the field of agriculture,” says Dan. And, through Kirkwood’s GPS/GIS program, Dan is preparing to work in in the emerging geospatial technology industry. As one of only a handful of precision agriculture programs in the nation, Kirkwood’s curriculum provides students with courses in computers, GPS (Global Positioning Systems), ArcView and data collection, in addition to agronomy and agriculture economics.

GPS technology has complemented Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for a number of years. “GPS is used in a lot of tractors, but also has a lot of other applications,” notes Dan. “There’s an infinite amount of options to use in the field of agriculture right now. This program has opened my eyes to all of the programs that are available to use in our family farm operation or to help me create my own business.”

Even if Dan decides not to pursue a career in farming, the skills he’s gaining through this program can translate into numerous other careers, including construction, natural resources or other agricultural careers. But for now, Dan says, “Once I graduate my passion is to go back home and farm with my Dad. That’s what I’ve always enjoyed and that’s what I really want to do.”

In our second segment, we visit the South Carolina ATE Center of Excellence at Florence-Darlington Technical College, which has developed proven models and successful practices to improve education — and ensure a competitive, technologically savvy workforce for the future.

“We have worked one-on-one with a number of educators and other organizations around the country to develop practices and strategies that we know will increase the quantity, quality and diversity of engineering technicians and support economic development,” explains Elaine Craft. And she adds, all of today’s education research is pointing to the value of hands-on, inquiry-based learning.

“Without a hands-on experience that puts things in context and forces students to grapple a bit, the information doesn’t stick and students don’t know how to use the information the next time they encounter it,” she notes. At Florence-Darlington, a series of changes that were initially implemented to meet the learning styles of a particular group of students,are now being used to make learning more meaningful for all students.

“We entirely changed the way we approach the first year of study, integrating mathematics, physics, technology and communications,” adds Elaine. “We also have an internship program, so we can now provide students with opportunities to work while they’re enrolled in school.” Known as a “Grow-Your-Own” approach, the internship enables students to “grow up” with an industry during their two years of school, ultimately producing a good match between the graduate and the job.

The South Carolina Advanced Technological Education Center (SC ATE) is now working with community colleges and industry partners on improving Engineering Technology programs at two-year colleges not only in South Carolina, but across the country. As this week’s episode demonstrates, today’s technology students can grow and thrive in many different ways!

ATETV Episode 22: More on Green Jobs and Industry Partnerships; Plus, Computer Careers

Monday, February 15th, 2010

This week, we’re continuing with a couple of topics from recent weeks: industry partnerships and green jobs. We’re also profiling a young father who’s fitting in his own homework in computer security between helping his kids with theirs.

First, we head to Bristol Community College to profile the partnership between the ATE program there and the local environmental and mechanical engineering industries. At Bristol, that partnership translates to input on curriculum via an industrial advisory board, and access to valuable internships like the one student Mike Poitras completed at a desalination plant.

Mike’s position at the plant is the kind of job that can’t be outsourced. The same goes for the energy technician jobs that Sinclair Community College is training its students to fill. The demand for these positions making buildings more energy efficient already outstrips the supply of workers, and the gap is widening. “The problem is not going to be a market” for these service, predicts Mike Train of Certified Energy Raters LLC. “It’s going to be having boots on the ground to service that market.”

One reason energy conservation is becoming a hot topic is the amount of electricity that our computers and other digital devices are consuming. At Springfield Technical Community College, student Francisco Nofal studying computer security, another hot career in our increasingly wired world. Francisco enrolled at STCC after a layoff. Now he’s balancing his studies with being a husband and father. “I get homework, they get homework, so I can’t do mine when I get home. I gotta wait, help them with theirs.”

Hopefully for Francisco all that homework will pay off, for him and his kids. Tune in next week for three more ATE success stories like his!

Lesson Plan: Building Trebuchets and Teamwork

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

As we saw in this week’s episode, community colleges and industry have come together to prepare students for in-demand jobs. But as we’ve been hearing from many ATETV viewers, employers are looking for more than just technical know-how. They’re also looking for employees who know how to communicate and who can work well in a group.

To that end, this week we’re presenting a lesson plan used by Jerry Duncan, head of the Process Technology program at College of the Mainland featured in this week’s episode. In this exercise, teams of students work together to build trebuchets — a kind of catapult that uses a counterweight to launch its ordinance.

“Each team is given the same plans and material to build a trebuchet, then the competition begins,” explains Duncan. “The team with the most accurate, longest throwing trebuchet receives the highest grade. The students are also peer graded on their work and contribution to the team.”

But what does a medieval siege weapon have to do with Process Technology? It all comes down to teamwork and the changing workplace. “Modern manufacturing sites have computerized and modernized their work processes so that many layers of supervision are gone,” explains Duncan. “The employees typically work in teams. They have few supervisors, so they have to work together with minimal direction to meet their production and quality goals.”

Duncan reports that the lesson is a big hit with his students. “They spend hours building, testing and refining their trebuchets,” he says. “They have learned teamwork skills, mechanical skills and basic troubleshooting skills, all of which will help them in their new careers in Process Technology.” And although Duncan uses this plan with community college students, it’s easily adaptable to high school classes.

Click here to download the lesson plan. Thanks to Jerry Duncan for his help with this week’s blog entry!

ATETV Episode 9: Women in Science

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

This week we have two stories about bringing more women into science and engineering — and one of them involves some pretty cool lasers!

First, we visit with female students and educators at Florence-Darlington Technical College in South Carolina. Many of the ATE students here are male, but administrators are making progress attracting more women. “If you can present education in a way that taps into those natural abilities of females, then they can excel in ways they never thought they could excel,” says Elaine Craft, Director of South Carolina Advanced Technological Education Center of Excellence (SC ATE) and an ATETV advisor.

In neighboring North Carolina, Central Carolina Community College is attracting female students by offering them a free education. “All females can go to school for free: free tuition, free books,” explains CCCC’s Gary Beasley. “You can’t beat that.” We profile Katie Renshaw, a student in CCCC’s lasers and photonics program where she gets to work with some amazing equipment, including a laser powerful enough to burn a block of wood!

This week, we also meet Kevin Ross, who is studying HVAC at Benjamin Franklin Technical Institute in Boston. Kevin had been out of school for 20 years before he was laid off. Now he’s studying to become a licensed HVAC technician. His story highlights the crucial role that technician education programs play in helping workers update their skills to adapt to the demands of a changing economy.