Joan Chadde, director of the Center for Science & Environmental Outreach at Michigan Technological University, presented “Engaging Families in STEM” at the National Science Teachers Association conference in Nashville with co-presenters, Tenesha Moore, Detroit Public Schools Office of Science and David Heil, Foundation for Family Science & Engineering. Two dozen educators from around the country experienced Family Engineering activities and found out for themselves how the program engages parents and elementary-aged children in hands-on engineering activities in order to create the next generation of problem solvers. Tenesha Moore shared how the Detroit Public School system has embraced the Family Engineering program, receiving a Verizon grant that supported teacher training and helped to purchase 45 Family Engineering Starter Kits. Between 20-30 Family Engineering events are conducted annually by Detroit schools.
Chadde and Heil are co-authors of Family Engineering: An Activity and Event Planning Guide, the product of a National Science Foundation Informal Science Education grant (2008-2011).
While some college students spend spring break relaxing, eight members of the Michigan Tech Student Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) spent three days in Detroit schools sharing their love of engineering with students. The trip, supported by a grant from the John Deere Foundation to the Michigan Tech Center for Science & Environmental Outreach, had the college students giving talks at six different schools by day, and presenting three family engineering events for elementary students and parents in the evening.
Joan Chadde, Director of the Michigan Tech Center for Science & Environmental Outreach, has been helping to prepare the NSBE student groups since this program began five years ago.
“The trip took a lot of planning and coordination. My staff assembles supplies for the events, arranges logistics, and provides training sessions to the NSBE student presenters,” explained Chadde, a co-author of the Family Engineering Activity & Event Planning Guide published in 2011. The project also had terrific cooperation from the Detroit Public Schools Office of Science and Detroit Math & Science Center.
Terrianna Bradley, president of the NSBE student chapter, is in her senior year at Michigan Tech in environmental engineering. This will be Bradley’s second year participating. “We’re encouraging them to go to college and consider science and engineering majors and career paths. There aren’t as many African-American engineers, so this program is really important for students in Detroit, who are mostly African-American, to see this organization here at Tech of mostly African-American students—we look like you, and we’re doing this, so obviously it’s possible for you to do it as well,” Bradley added said.
The trip will also benefit the college students. Yomi Famuyiwa, 2nd-year master’s student in Mechanical Engineering, said he was able to improve his presentation skills, in addition to providing education and encouragement for the high school students. “Presenting will always be needed in industry,” he said.
Michigan Tech University NSBE Students
Henry Ford tried a new format for their 3rd annual Family Engineering Night: 24 hands-on activity stations based on different fields of engineering, each hosted by an engineer talking about their job and the tools they use. By exploring activities that matched an engineers’ job, families learned what an engineer does and how their work impacts everyday life.
Eight stations were taken directly from the Family Engineering program, and an additional 13 new centers were designed following the Family Engineering format. The STEM Middle School Engineer Center, run by 26 STEM students and their instructor Jennifer Gleason, was a family favorite. The center included Vex and Lego robots, a Future City display and a computer-aided design display. Attendee Bshayer Alakrai commented that, “the new activities were really good” and that they “help you learn about science.” The Bazzoun family loved all of the “great activities for students of all ages!”
Coordinators Kathleen McCormick, a Science Enrichment teacher at Henry Ford Elementary School, and Patricia Hartshorn, a professor in U of M–Dearborn’s Natural Science Department, received additional support from U of M–Dearborn College of Engineering and Computer Science Outreach STEAM Program Manager Cassie Byrd, and electronics teacher Mary Beth Mauer. Over 100 volunteers also assisted with the evening’s activities. All four coordinators felt the support from the community was fantastic, noting that Family Engineering events are a great example of how schools and community groups working together can provide amazing learning opportunities to students and their families.
The Engineering Night Committee would like to thank the Henry Ford staff and families who attended the event along with all their wonderful community partners that made the event possible: U of M–Dearborn STEM instructor Jeffrey Bouwman, Wayne County RESA, Family Engineering, Henry Ford parent and GM engineer Mahmoud Hijazi, Henry Ford parent and Ford engineer Ebrahim Nasser, GM engineer Fattum Mutahr, Society of Automotive Engineers, Panelcraft owner Jeff Whittaker, Robotics experts Ronnie Tront and John Hartshorn, Ford Motor Company computer expert Derek Gee, Humanetics engineer Chris Allen, Model Rocket center Ron Bieri, ACCESS volunteers Mariam Alrayes, Huda Altamimy, Mariam Tolba, Ali Abdallah, Abdelsatter Obad and Ghada Alderwish, Middle School STEM instructor Jennifer Gleason and her 26 STEM students, and 36 U of M–Dearborn student volunteers.
A special thank you to Henry Ford’s Business sponsors: General Motors for their donation of 80 posters, hot wheel cars and automotive wall stickers; Humanetics for donating a kite and 4 hats; DTE for their donation of 6 low-flow showerheads; Hot Wheels for donating 3 Hot Wheels kits, and ACCESS and Greenland SuperMarket for their generous food donations for the volunteers.
Middle School STEM engineers demonstrating their robots.
While some students relaxed over the Thanksgiving break, the Michigan Tech Student Chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) was busy spreading the word about engineering as a possible STEM career path. The MTU students conducted a Family Engineering event on November 23 at the Academy of the Americas K-8 school in Detroit. A free pizza dinner for families was provided and students and parents attended three 35-minute activities—designing launchers, creating artistic robots, saving time on the assembly line, and so much more! This event was made possible with a grant from the John Deere Foundation to the Michigan Technological University Center for Science & Environmental Outreach who helped the SHPE chapter prepare for and conduct the event.
To promote STEM career paths for Michigan middle & high school students, grants were provided for teacher professional development and classroom supplies. Seven schools and 16 teachers participated−with each teacher taking home one Family Engineering Activity Guide ($39) and a Family Engineering Starter Kit ($895). Day-long workshops were held in Detroit and Ludington, led by co-author, Joan Chadde, director of the Michigan Tech Center for Science & Environmental Outreach. Teachers had a lot of fun with the Artistic Robot activity. They are encouraged to host a Family Engineering event at their school sometime during the school year.
See the results of the ArtisticRobot activity in action!