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Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

(OP)
I am on the board of a local private school that is considering Project Lead the Way or similar curriculum to fill the need for STEM offerings in the school. My very limited
perception of school-age so-called STEM programs amounts to playing with toys that generate interest in what might be considered more technician activities rather than engineering where designs are built on math and scientific principles. My perception is based in various engineering conferences I've attended where, as a feature, STEM classes have set up displays and booths where they show off their Legos and robots. There never seems to be much interest from the professionals attending the conference.

My question is, do these STEM programs do more than just attract attendance by appealing to parents as the school having a STEM program, and generating student interest which is more based in these "toys?" Can anyone with experience in this area help round out my perception of school-age STEM and is anyone familiar with the fruits of these STEM programs? Are more students going into engineering and sticking with it, or are they going into engineering and then discovering it's not really what they thought and not for them?

Any input is appreciated. Thanks in advance.

RE: Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

Quote:

Are more students going into engineering and sticking with it, or are they going into engineering and then discovering it's not really what they thought and not for them?

That's a mouthful and probably requires a full-blown article to thoroughly answer. Nevertheless, the old adage of leading a horse to water applies. If they're thirsty, you've done your job. The only other thing you can do is to convince them that they are indeed thirsty. Motivations and thirsts are as individual as the individuals themselves. I could never get my kids that interested in Lego Mindstorms, but they both would up in computer science anyway.

I think the shotgun approach is the most viable; essentially, throw every possible thing at them that might possibly interest them, and hope that one or more will stick. But, not everyone is cut out for STEM, it could be the math challenge or something else. The reality is that the world can't handle EVERYONE wanting to do STEM anyway; there are going to be those that love to cook or love to argue, etc., not counting those that have to wash the dishes and do garden work. I did had a friend that wanted to be an engineer, but just couldn't get through integral calculus, and wound up being a Home Depot manager.

STEM infusion in the schools has resulted in places like UC Berkeley creating an entire new Data Science major and division, and so long as companies like Facebook make gobs of money, there will be lots of well paying jobs waiting for them to graduate.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

I think you are asking good questions but I'm the wrong one to answer. I can't remember exactly what got me into STEM (my mother would probably claim it was a very long history of taking things apart, and sometimes re-assembling them, from about the age of 5).

Cheers

Greg Locock


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RE: Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

Not quite that early, but I knew I wanted to be an engineer when I was in junior high.

That said, I think most of the engineers here aren't the audience for this type of STEM outreach; the target audience is one where they might have gone and done something else that might not be as fulfilling/interesting/rewarding because they didn't know any better, or thought that it was all dry math/physics. There are kids now that have access to a tremendous array of free tools, easily acquired on the web, that can get them started into all sorts of technical fields that were not accessible when I was growing up, particularly since the smallest computer that was available in high school was the size of a compact refrigerator and cost as much as a house.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

This is a topic I have an opinion on but it is not an educated opinion. I have never seen a STEM program of any kind.

The hardest thing I see is the fact you are trying to reach developing minds rather than developed minds. I do feel the younger they are when you set off that inquisitive part of the brain, the better you are at reaching them and the more successful they will be in any endeavor. As Greg stated, "Age 5". For the age reason, IRs shotgun approach does make sense. The developed mind finds it hard to understand what the developing mind reacts to. Visual, Audio, Challenge, Examples, Problem Solving etc.

As an example, my college had an annual "Career Day" in engineering that was attended by local high school seniors. Each curriculum had a Dog and Pony show of some kind. The high school Seniors would vote on the best Dog and Pony. Mineral Engineering won many times. They took a hallway and made it like being inside a coal mine. Dark inside, low ceiling, had people dressed as miners, fake dynamite etc. Problem was, it was not much about actual Mineral Engineering. They won mostly because their Mine was "neat" visually. From an engineering perspective, not really much there.

I would place my initial emphasis on the younger ones. A Devil's Hook cost about $3 and sets off the mind to thinking without any electricity, air etc. But it does require gravity. Gravity costs are down this year I think. Tying how the Devil's Hook works in relation to a see-saw gets them thinking even more.

One issue I have always had with engineering is the amount of math you need to graduate is generally far more math then you need to work in your field unless you are in heavy research, aero etc. I think we tend to scare kids off with the mention of calculus and differential equations as if you cannot be a successful engineer without these courses. You can succeed without making an A in them. Also, you can succeed as an engineer with a B to C average also. We need to quit making them think engineering requires an A in every class.

RE: Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

I would just add the caveat that not getting good grades or test scores in high school almost guarantees not getting into the better schools. In California, only the top 9% of all high school seniors are assured of getting into one of the UCs, although there's no certainty of getting into the one you want. Getting into the top tier of the UCs, Berkeley, LA, Irvine, etc., requires being in the top one or two percent, particularly if you're interested in getting into CS or EE. Just consider that the overall acceptance rate for Berkeley is around 17%, but CS was 8.5%.

However, the student personally REALLY needs to want to be in STEM; doing because it's expected or because they want to please their parents is a sure-fire path to unhappiness if they're not invested in the decision.

As a corollary to Ron247's comments about Devil's Hook, a Raspberry Pi costs under $20, and surplus/used keyboards and monitors could possibly be quite cheap as well. With that, there's a lot of programming/engineering learning that could be done. Addressable LED strips can be bought for around $40, and programming your own Christmas lights could be a pretty good learning experience, for both CS and EE types.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

A bit off topic, but I really think they need to look into the maths side of engineering degrees. Personally speaking I don't do anything more complex than powers or square roots on a daily basis, and haven't had to touch differentiation, let alone partial differentiation more than once every 5 years.

I'd have much preferred to spend the time 'wasted' on maths on more education on connections for instance.

On a stem theme whenever I have work experience students visiting I try and find some simple examples of engineering (pushing them sideways with feet different widths apart for example) to demonstrate overturning forces and couples, then link it to something I am working on that day (maybe a portal frame), and try and show them real world examples as well (maybe the legs of the Eifel Tower). Depending on age / experience I show a little bit of maths (for instance the effect increasing the decoupline distance (i.e. foot spacing) has on the reactions). Feedback has usually been positive.

RE: Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

Everybody starts somewhere. My father was a metallurgist that had a second career throughout my childhood as a middle and high shop teacher in a district with a top shop/vocational arts/technology program. His school took a big initiative exploring STEM through the 90s, having teachers and staff attend shows/conferences on it, and pushing joint design projects between classes and depts as well as extracurriculars like Odyssey of the Mind. I believe all-in-all it was very successful. At home we grew up playing with Fischer-Technik and other advanced "toys," and I believe it helped me develop and showed me the joy of designing and building things. Maybe "toys" leads into shop, with a healthy dose of design throughout?

I do concur with above regarding the level of math required today, but my bigger concern with today's collegiate programs is their seeming focus on bestowing a broad range of basic engineering theory rather than focusing on developing the fundamentals of design and analysis. A graduate who has learned to design and analyze practical, basic mechanisms really well is light years ahead of the grad who took intro to everything. Teach students to use basic tools excel, CAD, FEA etc) and force them to use them at a reasonable competency in every succeeding course rather than reapplying the 1st law in six different theoretical thermo classes.

As to student presentations at conferences, I would highly encourage anybody who considers themselves a professional to take a minute and pay it forward by stopping at these displays and giving a kind word of encouragement to the students. It might not mean much to you but it often means the world to them.

RE: Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

Adding to IRs comment on getting into the more highly ranked engineering schools as compared to a somewhat average engineering school in a "ranking hierarchy". While acceptance into a more highly ranked school is a plus, I really feel from an engineering economics standpoint they may not be worth the expense. They are great if your family has the means to finance them but most kids don't have that luxury.

Some really highly ranked schools could easily cost 2 to 3 times a more average school. Do you exit those schools 2-3 times more knowledgeable than the average schools, I do not think so. They may be 1.5 times more knowledgeable at best. But look where the school started, it only accepted people on the upper end of the spectrum from a grade point perspective. It is like college football, if you get the best high school talent and have a reasonably good coaching staff, you should be higher ranked than the other colleges. Who doesn't like to see an underdog outplay and win against a blue-blood? If we ranked everyone on Eng-Tips with their ability to teach Ballet, there would be a 1st place and everything in between until we get to last place. While #1 may be 50 times better than the last place person, that does not necessarily mean #1 can teach it very good.

In the end, the kid gets out of the educational experience something that is commensurate with the effort they put into it.

RE: Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

I was specifically focused on the UC system specifically because of costs. Both of my kids went to UC, luckily for me, since tuition is ~$17k/yr. However, even within the UC system, going to Berkeley vs. Bakersfield or Riverside comes with a larger level of cachet because of its reputation. So, you don't get 3x the education, but you possibly do get a possibly sizable salary advantage and possibly a sizable advantage when stacked against other job candidates. While there are always a few duds, McDonnell Douglas used to be in the habit of hiring new grads from UC Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon pretty much sight unseen back in the 70s.

The current job climate, at least for computer science is ludicrously competitive, so every little advantage is critical, and even the traditional summer internship takes on a life of its own. Your previous internship(s) is(are) scrutinized by recruiters for quality of company, so a traditionally acceptable job at McDonalds doesn't cut the mustard any more and getting an internship at a FAANG-like company is likened to the Holy Grail, not to mention the absurdly high salaries.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

@SandCounter
So does the school not like its current science curriculum or would this be an addition to the school's elective or after school programs?

RE: Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

Quote (SandCounter)

...and is anyone familiar with the fruits of these STEM programs? Are more students going into engineering and sticking with it...

I suspect this fad trend in Education is new enough that nobody really knows.

Regards,

Mike

The problem with sloppy work is that the supply FAR EXCEEDS the demand

RE: Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

Quote:

I suspect this fad trend in Education is new enough that nobody really knows.

STEM may be new to some schools in rather remote areas but its been in the common vocabulary of teachers for at least 30 years that I know of. Personally I blame the current glut of engineering degrees stateside largely on its implementation through the 90s, tho the denigration of the trades also likely has much to do with it.

RE: Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

CWB1, 30 years? Maybe so, but I certainly don't recall STEM being publicized and pushed the way it is these days, not that long ago, not around here at any rate. And I don't consider that I live in a remote area.

OK, maybe about 20 years ago?

I don't know if that is long enough to accurately measure the effect or not.

The problem with sloppy work is that the supply FAR EXCEEDS the demand

RE: Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

(OP)
Thanks, all, for the useful feedback.

jari001, The school meets standard state requirements and is seeking to bump up it's reputation a bit by adopting a bona fide STEM program.

RE: Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

Quote:

...and is anyone familiar with the fruits of these STEM programs? Are more students going into engineering and sticking with it...

Yes, they are, as mentioned earlier. UC Berkeley installed a new dean for their Data Science major last year, with over 1300 declared students. The jobs are plentiful and high paying. The going rate for an internship in CS/DS is on the order of $7k per month at the larger companies.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

Quote:

bump up it's reputation a bit by adopting a bona fide STEM program.

The school will need to invest megabucks to attract the professors and researchers to do that. Chapman University is spending money and building the facilities to support their quantum physics thrust, and they have a potential Nobel Prize nominee, Yakir Aharonov, in residence. UC Irvine went from relative obscurity to become a major destination for STEM majors that couldn't get into Berkeley or LA, but almost the entire UC system has been amped up, including Davis, Santa Cruz, San Diego, and Santa Barbara.

The more germane issue is when the next recession will hit, leaving STEM majors stranded, and whether going to places like USC, Stanford, etal, are really worth the investment if you're not in a hot major. There are 3 times the number of Psych, Social Sci, History graduates compared with Engineering, but are there really that many high paying jobs for those that sucked up $100k in loans?

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

Quote:

30 years? Maybe so, but I certainly don't recall STEM being publicized and pushed the way it is these days, not that long ago, not around here at any rate. And I don't consider that I live in a remote area.

I'm sure its grown to be more common knowledge among the general public, but a decent teacher 30 years ago should've been aware of it as a fairly big initiative via the various education rags if nothing else. My folks retired 22 years ago and as mentioned were involved in it quite a few years prior to that. "Remote area" is likely a bad phrase as many inner city schools are behind the times as rural ones, just trying to say that some schools are rather behind the times.

RE: Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

I used to think I did not live in a remote area until I realized my zip code is EIEIO.

RE: Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

Don't know about publicized, but certainly, my father would have had a fit if I hadn't gone into engineering, or at least something STEM-related. As it was, I was berated for pursuing neither MS nor PhD.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Project Lead the Way and Engineering Retention

Project Lead the Way, just to stick with the example you give, doesn't seem like it's a seminar or a one and done type of exhibition. This program is looking to change the way standard science concepts are presented, or so it seems to me. If the standard curriculum is changed to include/change to PLTW material, then the school has the advantage of keeping kids enrolled through the progression of activities and the kids get the advantage of the cumulative learning of sticking with a thought out learning experience through many years. The efficacy of this new teaching method, would require a review of the literature and testimonials.

As for math at the college level - I wouldn't necessarily change the scope of what math I learned (upto partial diff eqs. I), but I would add heavier engineering context to the math ASAP. All of my math courses were taught by math professors, and I would appreciate a closer collaboration between the engineering and math depts. to make the math more relatable to what you learned in the engineering courses. Case in point, I had one math course that was about learning how to use Matlab and that was all based on solving different engineering problems from various disciplines. That course really solidified some of my calc skills when you knew you had derived something incorrectly because something had the wrong vector gradient or your heat sink has an average temperature hotter than the sun lol

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