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Engineering in America

A Parent’s Guide to Inspiring a Future Engineer

Creating the next generation of engineers is easy when you support and encourage your child’s natural curiosity. Best of all, engineering is a stable and lucrative career for your child’s future. Learn how to inspire your child to pursue engineering with these helpful tips from DiscoverE.

Why encourage a child to become an engineer?

Why not? Engineers always see the possibilities and have not only the passion to make a difference in the world but the technical know-how to achieve it. And the best part? Engineering can be found in anything that inspires a child.

Want to protect the planet? Engineers develop state-of-the-art recycling systems. Love sports? Engineers design new and improved gear and equipment for athletes. Want to help save lives? Engineers develop life-saving medical technologies that have the potential to impact tens of thousands of people all around the world. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. To learn more about the many different ways engineers make a difference in all our lives, visit www.DiscoverE.org/discover-engineering/engineering-careers.

What does it take to be a good engineer?

It’s important that engineers have a solid background in math and science. However, ultimately, the best engineers are creative and imaginative. They enjoy collaborating with others, are curious and persistent, like solving problems and want to make a difference.

What do engineers really do? 

Engineers bring positive change to the world. They dream up creative, practical solutions and work with teams of smart, inspiring people to create things that matter. They do it all: design, invent, fix, improve, research, travel, present, inspect, draw and write. And they do it everywhere, from big and small cities to rural communities, in offices, classrooms, factories and research labs, and even in space.

Is engineering a good career?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, the field of engineering is expected to increase as much as 10 percent in the coming decade. This demand will continue as governments and industry work to meet the challenges of a growing global population. Future engineers will have the opportunity to impact millions of people with their innovations while enjoying job security and excellent pay.

What is the pathway to become an engineer?

Research shows that students who start thinking about college in middle school and early high school are more likely to go to college and are generally already taking the classes they’ll need for admission to an engineering program. And while good grades and a well-rounded course load are important, extracurricular activities are a factor as well. As students begin exploring college options, have them consider the following:

  • Two-Year Associate’s Degree: Many good technician and technologist jobs require just two years of school. This is a great way to save money on tuition and still get a solid education.
  • Traditional Four-Year Degree Program: The first two years are a mix of math and science, English, social sciences, the humanities and introductory engineering classes. In the last two years, students investigate the engineering specialty of their choice.
  • The Military: Options include applying to a service academy (e.g., West Point) which is free for accepted students, or they can enlist in the military to earn money for college.

What are some ways to introduce and engage a child in engineering?

To help introduce a child to engineering, start by asking what kind of impact they want to have on the world. Depending on their age, you might offer to help them brainstorm. Then ask them what kinds of things they enjoy doing. Are there any overlaps? For older children, you can ask what types of work interest them. DiscoverE has a list of great conversation starters for children of all ages. www.DiscoverE.org/discover-engineering/conversation-starters

Activities to inspire future engineers

Kids love hands-on activities, and if you add some problem solving into the mix, it’s all the better. There are dozens of online resources — even Pinterest boards — dedicated to engineering activities for kids. Whatever interests your child, be sure to point out how and why it’s an engineering activity. Before you know it, they’ll begin to notice it in everything they do. http://www.DiscoverE.org/our-activities

Engineering programs and clubs

Does your child’s school offer an engineering program or after-school club? Increasingly, schools are incorporating various STEM programs and activities into their curriculum. There are also many independent, nationwide programs that students can participate in, even competitions such as Future City, which asks kids to imagine, research, design and build a city that exists 100 years in the future. To learn more about Future City, which won three awards for most innovative engineering program for middle schoolers, visit www.DiscoverE.org/our-programs/future-city.

Engaging children in engineering is a great way to not only reinforce math and science skills, but promote confidence, critical thinking, creativity and perhaps best of all, encourage students to take intellectual risks. Want to learn more? Visit www.DiscoverE.org for helpful tips, hundreds of activities and program opportunities.

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