This year is the 60th anniversary of Engineers Week – or EWeek. And while you may be tempted to make jokes about pocket protectors and safety goggles, you should know that EWeek plays a crucial role in increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers among young students and by promoting pre-college literacy in math and science.
In fact, in 2010, more than 4,000 IBM EWeek volunteers across the globe reached out to over 170,000 pre-college students and encouraged them to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematic (STEM) studies with new enthusiasm, possibly leading to careers in engineering and technology fields. EWeek 2011 officially launches in February but the volunteers bring the excitement of engineering to students all year. Following below are a few samples of different activities that will occur this year or are on-going.
Dr. Kold heats up kids’ interest in engineering
Under the leadership of two IBM volunteers, Rick McMaster and Jennifer Vargus, Central Texas Discover Engineering has grown from a handful of IBM volunteers in the Austin, Texas, United States area to an organization coordinating over 500 volunteers in annual visits to almost 100 Central Texas schools and events. Each year, McMaster, who also uses his training as a low temperature physicist to create a persona named Dr. Kold, demonstrates the properties of liquid nitrogen and materials at low temperatures to thousands of students in their classrooms, scouting groups, local museums and summer camps.
A fifth-grade science teacher at an Austin elementary school said, “Dr. Kold has been the highlight of our Science Week for the past three years. Dr. Kold teaches our students about science through engaging experiments that happen right before their eyes. His energy, humor and love for science are contagious. Students make connections to their learning and bring up his name in the classroom all year long.”
Why does he do it? “My work day involves meetings across global time zones,” explained McMaster. “It’s been rewarding to be able to break up my long days and use the project management skills I honed at IBM to develop this community program. It’s even better to be able to take time out to visit the students. Whether it’s comparing the breaking strength of spaghetti to linguini, trying to get real music out of the Theremin (an electronic musical instrument controlled without contact from the player) or falling back on my PhD training in low temperature physics as Dr. Kold, the interaction I get with the students revitalizes me. After an hour of this, I’m able to put my work in a different perspective and find new solutions.”
Volunteers in China ‘PowerUp’ interest for future engineers
Last year, IBM EWeek volunteers in China inspired thousands of students with a variety of activities, including one called PowerUp the Game, in which students work together to save the futuristic planet Helios from out-of-control greenhouse gases. This IBM designed learning resource motivates students to apply science and math concepts to real world problems, including solar, wind and hydroelectric technology.
PowerUp was offered to students at the China Science and Technology Museum in Beijing as well as the Beihang School and TianYi School in the city of Wuxi, Jiangsu province.
Su Xu, the IBM chair of EWeek 2010 in Beijing, explained, “We translated much of the language from English into Chinese and added some China specific content, including how different types of energy are used in China.”
A student from TianYi School commented that the PowerUp project “enhanced our environmental awareness, broadened our knowledge, and as an added benefit, we also learned several English words.”
Xiu Juan Yu, president of the Beihang School, was equally enthusiastic, “The activity is very user-friendly and brings the concept of clean energy into the school classroom. IBM volunteers bring the idea of environmental protection and energy saving to the minds of students.”
Volunteers reach over 27,000 students in 2010
Last year, the IBM EWeek team in the Dallas-Forth Worth, Texas, United States area, led by Charla Patterson, spoke to over 27,000 students from 120 schools. The EWeek activities have become so popular in the area that the number of local schools nominating themselves for IBM EWeek visits outnumbered the available bandwidth of dedicated IBM volunteers.
Heather Miller, a local high school Physics teacher, expressed her appreciation to Patterson and showed why the EWeek school visits are so important, “Some of the students are definitely more interested in engineering than they were before. It’s so good for them to hear from people who are in the field applying things that they’re learning right now. Thanks again for helping to make it possible!”
EWeek volunteers staffed an IBM booth at TechFest at the Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas where they led various hands-on activities, including IBM’s online energy-themed game, PowerUp. They also demonstrated the Forbidden City: Beyond Space and Time, a fully immersive interactive virtual world that brings Chinese culture to all by creating a virtual online re-creation of the Forbidden City.
In 2010, enthusiastic IBM volunteers also guided seventh-to-tenth grade students in TexPREP, a STEM academic enrichment program at Texas Wesleyan University. They participated in Technology Night at nearby Walnut Hill Elementary, supported an IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) teacher in-house event at Lockheed Martin, and judged the VEX Robotics World Championship event hosted in Dallas in 2010.
Global Marathon brings EWeek ideas to hundreds of thousands of women
There will be thousands of activities and participants in EWeek this year, as well. One of the activities is Global Marathon. The interactive event, targeted specifically for girls and women, will take place from March 7-12, 2011. Cindy Kou, an IBM program director in Beijing, China, serves as the vice chair of Global Marathon 2011. With a focus on adventure and exploration, the event is designed to encourage women to ask questions on Internet chat sites, web casts and telephone calls, Presenters and participants can join in the experience in any of six general regions including North America, Mexico/Latin America, UK/Europe, India, Africa/Middle East, and China.
IBM Celebration of Service
IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.