Employers are finding engineers difficult to come by, but Clemson University is one of the institutions that’s looking to make a dent in that.
Through a partnership with GE called the Next Engineers program, high school students — or Next Engineers — can get up close with engineering through Engineering Academy Greenville. The program exists to help increase not only the number of students entering engineering but also the diversity of those students. According to a recent Pew Research study, only 17 percent of those entering the field were Black or Latino.
On July 22, a cohort of 11th-grade students had the opportunity to check out Clemson University and see some of Watt Family Innovation Center, testing out virtual reality headsets and 3-D printers. Next Engineers also got a look at the Clemson Energy Visualization and Analytics Center, a facility that monitors the carbon footprint of every object on Clemson’s campus, down to a tree.
“I’ve wanted to be a mechanical engineer since I watched the Imagineering documentary on Disney Plus,” said Hadley Medeiros, a junior at Daniel High School in Central, South Carolina. “It shows how they built the attractions at the Disney theme parks.”
The program offers three experiences for students, depending on grade level. They are:
- Engineering Discovery for ages 13-14
- Engineering Camp, a week-long camp experience for ages 14-15
- Engineering Academy for ages 15-18
Along with the Greenville schools that Clemson works with — serving Greenville, Pickens, Oconee and Spartanburg counties — there are hubs in Johannesburg, South Africa; Staffordshire, United Kingdom; and Cincinnati, Ohio.
Through the program, students learn how to think like engineers, with the ultimate goal of moving on to a secondary education in engineering. Students are expected to complete 80 hours per year of learning outside the normal classroom environment and can be eligible for a $20,000 scholarship from GE following completion of the program. Students get everything from immersive design challenges to college reading workshops.
“They come see me here at the University about two times a month, typically on Saturdays,” said Brittany Fatima Sanders, project manager for Next Engineers Greenville. “We do engineering design challenges; They meet with faculty members and participate in activities like this to get them excited about being engineers — and it works.”