More than 250 first-year Waterloo Engineering students went back to elementary school recently to help teach and inspire the next generation of professionals.
Armed with activity kits from their own mechanics course, the engineering students led lessons in forces and pressure for about 600 children in grades 7 and 8 at Laurelwood Public School and Centennial Public School, both in Waterloo.
The project - which involved students in architectural, environmental, geological and civil engineering programs at the University of Waterloo – had two main objectives.
One was to help engineering students better understand the concepts in their own course by using kits with arches, dams, suspension bridges and other components to teach the basics to elementary children.
“Research shows that teaching is the best way to learn,” said Rania Al-Hammoud, a civil and environmental engineering lecturer who has made it a priority to get her students out into the local community for several years.
The other goal was to inspire children, particularly girls, to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) by showing them practical, hands-on examples of where it can lead and specifically how it can benefit society.
A link to societal benefits has been identified by researchers as a key factor in getting girls and young women interested in engineering and related fields.
Establishing a connection between schooling and rewarding, productive careers when children are young has also been shown to boost high school graduation rates and post-secondary attendance.
Previous projects organized by Al-Hammoud included collaboration between first-year engineering students and elementary children on the design of new playground structures.