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 25 engineers engaging with 1,650 secondary students, distribute £2,500 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 many of our objectives and connect 2,047 students from 55 schools with 25 engineers.
89% of the students who logged in actively engaged with the site. There were 1,262 questions and over 47 hours of live chats in which students talked to engineers about their work. The questions remain online at imanengineer.org.uk.
We analyse student and engineer behaviour on the site using web-metrics.
Throughout the event we collect comments from students and engineers in live chats and ASK questions on the site.
We also visit participating schools during the event to observe classes and talk to teachers. Teachers often email us directly about their experiences and to offer feedback.
We ask students about their attitudes to engineering before and after the event via online surveys on their site profiles. Completion of this is self-selecting, and we offer incentives. We also send a post-event survey to all teachers.
Finally , we interview engineers about their experiences after the event and ask them to compete post event surveys.
We use all this to create reports for each zone, and an evaluation report at the end of the project. Read more at http://about.imanengineer.org.uk/category/zone-reports/
What went well:
1. Engineers said they had improved their communications skills, and wanted to do more outreach. They became more aware of the public’s views towards engineering. Taking part helped them develop and focus their approaches to future outreach.
2. Students told us they had improved their understanding of the role of engineers in society, the tasks they do, and the projects they work on. They also became more aware of the range of STEM careers available.
3. Teachers said they felt more informed of cutting edge research and were more confident using online tools. They told us that their students found the event worthwhile, and now understood more about engineering.
4. We continue to develop improvements to the event. We have developed our own criteria for Widening Participation schools so we can identify and prioritise the schools who would benefit most from taking part: Those less likely to receive in person STEM engagement, due to being located away from Higher Education Institutions and centres of research.
What was learned:
1. Corporate funding for STEM outreach is not a simple answer to sustaining the project. We spent time this year looking more deeply at the problem. Large companies already have the capacity to deliver their own programmes. Companies at the cutting edge of science and engineering rely heavily on new recruits and are often run by people keen to do outreach. However they are often cash-poor and beholden to investors.
2. In addition to the RAEng, we had funding from the IET and the IMechE’s Engineering Education Grant Scheme (EEGS) to run two zones in November for the first time. Despite the success of the zones, we were unable to secure further EEGS funding this year and feedback indicated that having been funded once already made it unlikely to be funded again soon, without presenting a completely new project.
Top tips and advice for others
1. Look for companies with cash who are keen to operate in STEM engagement but without the capacity to deliver their own programmes. The challenge now is identifying them and reaching the decision-makers within them.
2. If you are a long running project be aware that you may need to prioritise grant schemes that reward successful projects over novelty.