Today, we’re proud to announce the launch of Careers for Engineers, a new, free EiE resource. As part of this launch, we want to take you inside our development process to explore why we created Careers, what the project entails, and how you can use it in the classroom.
Why did we create Careers for Engineers?
Elementary school is a critical time for students’ career interests. By the end of fifth grade, some students have already decided to pursue a career in STEM, while others have concluded such a career is “unthinkable.” These early choices have lasting consequences: students’ career intentions as they enter secondary school affect what courses they take, what degrees they pursue, and what fields they work in.
The good news is that teaching about professions at the elementary level can affect this trajectory: students with greater knowledge of STEM careers are more likely to aspire to such careers. The bad news is that only 9% of elementary teachers feel very well prepared to develop students’ awareness of possible careers in STEM. While free STEM career resources exist, most use advanced vocabulary and complex concepts intended for high school or college students.
Given this need, EiE set out to develop an inviting, age-appropriate resource for young students to explore engineering and computer science careers. In fall 2020, we received funding for the project from Dell Technologies, and Careers for Engineers was born.
What is Careers for Engineers?
The Careers for Engineers experience begins with a personality quiz in which students answer a dozen questions about their interests, hobbies, and preferences. Unlike many other engineering quizzes, the questions are designed to be as accessible and non-technical as possible.
Based on their answers, students then view an infographic about one of five engineering or computer science careers. Each infographic includes the problems the featured engineer solves, the technologies they design, and the ways in which they help people. To extend students’ learning further, each infographic also includes links to activities, videos, exhibits, and podcasts about the career in question.
Our goal, with support from Dell Technologies, is to broaden students' view of how engineering changes the world around them and help them see themselves as engineers and computer scientists. To avoid making students feel limited, we designed the experience using non-deterministic language, such as “You might enjoy being an aerospace engineer.” Each student also has the option to explore other careers besides the one with which they are presented. And, to maximize accessibility, the entire experience is available in both English and Spanish.
How can you use Careers for Engineers in the K–8 classroom?1. Hang up posters
The career infographics make great classroom art! To represent diversity within engineering, show students engineering fields, and start them thinking about engineering concepts, you can print out the infographics and post them around your classroom. (On the homepage, scroll down for the option to access the infographics directly, without taking the quiz.)2. Pair with an EiE unit
Before you start an EiE unit, you can have students take the quiz and view the infographics to introduce the concepts of engineering and technology. Alternatively, you can wait until after you finish the unit, then have students take the quiz to help them understand that there are many different fields of engineering besides the one they have been exploring.3. Make it a take-home activity
To continue the learning at home, you can tell families about the Careers for Engineers site and encourage them to take the quiz with students. They can use the linked resources on the infographics to continue their learning.
Share your thoughts!
Once you’ve checked out the resource, we want to hear from you! Do you have ideas about how to use Careers for Engineers with students? Do you have a favorite featured career? Let us know in the comments below!
Derek Butterton is a curriculum developer at EiE, where he creates engineering and computer science resources for classrooms, out-of-school-time programs, and families. He is especially interested in the history and use of Habits of Mind. When not at work, he enjoys playing board games and spending time outdoors.
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