I'm an Engineer, Get me out of here! – Ingenious Grant
I'm an Engineer, Get me out of here aims to get engineers talking to school students all over the UK. Students challenge the engineers over fast-paced online live CHATs. They ASK the engineers anything they want, and VOTE for their favourite to win a prize of £500 to fund further outreach.
Students see that engineers are normal people, learn that science, technology and maths lessons relate to real life, and become more enthused about engineering. Engineers develop their communication skills, gain a fresh perspective on their work, and find out what young people think about engineering and the role of engineers.
We were awarded an Ingenious Grant for the Royal Academy of Engineering to get 30 engineers engaging with 2,000 secondary students, distribute £3,000 in prize money to be spent on further public engagement, produce marketing materials, and evaluate the project throughout.
Summary of activity:
This Ingenious Grant allowed us to exceed our objectives and connect 43 engineers and 2,232 students from 50 schools.
84% of the students who logged in actively engaged with the engineers. There were 1,418 questions and over 40 hours of live chats in which students asked to engineers about their work, engineering, the universe and beyond. The questions remain online.
We produced flyers and created a video to help recruit engineers and teachers. The video explains the activity with interviews to teachers and engineers, and showing how the students react in the classroom.
Being online, we can gather webstats to measure engineers' and students' activity. We send feedback surveys to teachers, students and engineers, and collect the quotes and comments they leave during the event. We also analyse question keywords and popular topics in the live chats. Using all this, we produce evaluation reports for each zone individual zone reports for engineers and teachers (http://about.imanengineer.org.uk/category/zone-reports/), and an evaluation report at the end of the funding period.
What went well:
1.Engineers feel satisfied after inspiring students and changing their perceptions of engineers and engineering. They considered they have improved their communications skills, and want to do more outreach after taking part.
2. Teachers are happy to get informed of cutting edge research and became more confident using online tools.
3. Students have a good perception of engineering, and I'm an Engineer improves it, they also get inspired to become engineers after taking part. See more: goo.gl/Zfhqi8
What was learned:
1. We know that students have a more positive attitude to engineering after taking part, but measuring their change in understanding of engineering is more difficult. Students already tend to use positive words about engineering, and closed questions tend not to work when assessing this understanding as they can be very leading.
2. One of the main challenges is diversify I'm an Engineer funding. We have approached Engineering SMEs and Centres for Doctoral training, to suggest that they fund places to improve their members' communication abilities.
Top tips and advice for others
1. Visual marketing is the best form of marketing. We produced flyers and created a video to help recruit engineers and teachers. The video explains the activity with interviews to teachers and engineers, and showing how the students react in the classroom. It is on the home site and it has accumulated almost 1,000 views since September 2014.
2. Keep evaluating and renewing your activity. We keep updating the site to make it easier for the engineers, teachers and students to take part. We recently updated the process student access to the site and the live chat booking system. We are currently updating the site so it is mobile friendly.