By SRINIDHI VENKATESH ‘22
Did you know that China and India each produce millions of engineers each year, while the United States produces less than 80k?
These surprising statistics were brought up during a presentation by Engineering Tomorrow, a high school program designed to help address this growing dearth of engineers in our nation. Taught by engineers, this program aims to spread engineering to as many students across our nation by providing opportunities to experience engineering style challenges. Executive Director of Engineering Tomorrow, Dr. Timothy McNiff, succinctly explained the goal of the program: “What we are trying to do is help you folks [the students taking part in our program] understand the opportunities that are around here and the importance of it.”
On January 10, 2020, the students of the STEM Academy took part in a design day competition hosted by Engineering Tomorrow, including a presentation on the importance of engineering, run by practicing engineers and engineering major college students, to help educate the students. Students took part in a Q&A session with these majors on both engineering itself and the college application process.The practical portion of the program consisted of immersion in engineering-based team competitions for the participating students.
The first challenge put the spin on a classic engineering situation: the travelling salesman problem. Students had to work together to create the shortest possible path between various cities of the United States on a map and then program a drone to fly over a physical version of the map and land at each location in the shortest period of time. The students were judged based on time and accuracy.
The second challenge involved solar power. Students created structures out of cardboard and six solar panel cells, trying to maximize sunlight input and energy output from lights positioned at various heights and angles.
Both these challenges created friendly competition that motivated the students to pour all their skill and expertise into engineering a solution as a team, skills that engineers in the real world use on a daily basis.
All in all, the day was a successful immersion experience into the field of engineering for the members of the Edison High School STEM Academy.