Building diversity in the engineering profession

The next generation of engineers, and the one after that, may be much different. Video: Visiting where kids are learning what engineering is about and loving every minute.

12/02/2013


From time to time we’ve talked about the demographic time bomb the engineering profession is facing with an aging workforce and too few people pursuing it as a vocation. For those wringing their hands about the future, here’s a bit of good news: Come and meet Kenneth Hill, a man who is dedicated to bringing new communities into the engineering profession, and he has taken responsibility to make it happen.

The video is a visit to his “little engineers” program where he takes Chicago school children, beginning in kindergarten, and builds a foundation for them to understand math, science, and engineering in a way that they will be solidly prepared to go to a college or university and compete with the best in an engineering curriculum.

Hill has been building ChiS&E (Chicago Pre-College Science and Engineering Program) to develop kids from traditionally educationally underserved communities. Beginning in kindergarten, he has created programs that make the students understand what engineering is about. They learn the different kinds of engineering, problem solving, math, science, and critical thinking.

So far, in the ChiS&E program, the oldest kids are fifth-graders. They’re the ones that were in the first class of kindergarteners and the program has added a new grade level each year. Eventually the program will be a comprehensive K-12 curriculum turning out students from African-American and Latino communities well positioned to succeed in any university engineering program.

This program is patterned after one Hill helped form in Detroit, DAPCEP. (See an earlier story.) It has been very successful and helped produce countless engineers. In a eight or nine years, it will be much the same in Chicago.

There are ways for people in our professions to help ChiS&E. It’s a very modest program and gets a lot of bang from every buck. In the video, Hill explains the kind of help he’s seeking. You’ll also see how deeply committed parents and teachers are to the program. And the kids really like it too. In a few years they may be applying for jobs at your company, and you will want to hire them.

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