5 Tools to Build Relevancy Into Conversations With Kids About CE

October 8, 2012

The new school year is well on its way, and a significant number of you all over the country are looking for ways to reach out and share information with kids about the challenges, excitement and impact of careers in civil engineering. ASCE is working hard to supply you with ideas, messaging techniques, and resources that you can use to make your effort this year really count!
Before you do outreach this year, be sure you know the tools that are available to you. Because nothing talks civil engineering like:
1. Your Story – Your path to civil engineering and your love for the work you do is one of the greatest tools you have to generate excitement and inspire the next generation. Did choose engineering to follow in someone’s footsteps? Did you think you were headed in a different direction until someone told you about a career that you knew nothing about? Were you told that civil engineering wasn’t for you, but always knew it was meant to be? No matter what your story, there will be a young person whose imagination is lit up by your experience.
2. Your Job – You are an engineer. You DON’T drive trains! You design and inspect bridges, you ensure safe drinking water, you ensure the safety of tunnels and tall buildings. You build ports, highways, and landing fields, you take care of some of life’s messiness and help to ensure that our landfills and waste are under control. You do all this and more, and kids find it fascinating. No one can talk with more authority about the work you do, than you! Tell them why you love it, and always tell them how it makes a difference in our world, our country, our towns, and mostly to them as individuals!
3. Hands-on Activities – Engineers know that their love of designing and solving problems is directly linked to their experiences using tools and materials to explore challenges and achieve goals in their environment. Future engineers know that too, but many don’t have like minded people to give them a challenge and demonstrate the habits of mind engineers employ to design, test and redesign until the challenge is overcome. Introducing hands-on engineering design challenges to kids shows them that engineers are creative people who DO things. Whenever possible find a challenge that fits your presentation or exhibit and let students BE an engineer. Check out ASCE’s full line of activity guides available in our eStore!
4. Science and Math – No doubt about it. Civil engineers need a good foundation in STEM subjects to be able to find technical solutions to modern day problems. Science and math are the tools they use to assist them in reaching their ultimate goal. Helping kids to see the connections between scientific and mathematical thinking and the many jobs civil engineers do is important. Need help making it fun? Look to ASCEville’s Just for Fun page so show kids how to manipulate scientific and mathematical variables and “do” civil engineering.
5. Solid Messaging – So you’ve got a story; you’ve got an activity; now, how do you tie everything together persuasively so that kids leave knowing that engineers improve our everyday lives by creating bold solutions for some of life’s toughest challenges? First, it helps to know what kids want. Then it’s imperative that you understand how civil engineering will be able to fill that need for many of the students you meet. Are engineers creative? Yes. Do they work in teams? Yes. Do they help people? Definitely! Do they earn a good living? Uh-huh. Will there be jobs in the future? Yep. Are civil engineers respected? Do they matter? Yes and yes. ASCE has a quick tutorial that you won’t want to miss showing good messaging in action! Watch Inspiring the Next Generation of Civil Engineers.

Have these tools worked for you? Share a comment or anecdote to illustrate the power of these tools, or tell us about the stuff you pull out of your toolbox when introducing civil engineering to the next generation.

Leslie Payne
Senior Manager, Pre-College Outreach

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