Aboriginal Access to Engineering set to expand programs

Posted on May 16, 2016

Full-time Community Engagement Coordinator to build new school partnerships

Aboriginal Access to Engineering (AAE) has earned a PromoScience grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The funding will be used to hire an Aboriginal Community Engagement (ACE) Coordinator to deepen relationships with proximate indigenous communities and further expand AAE programs. It also supports the travel inherent to Aboriginal community outreach initiatives.

Melanie Howard

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: "Now it’s time for us to really focus on certain communities and see what we can do to increase STEM within those communities." says AAE Director, Melanie Howard.

 “We’re building on the success we’ve had over the last three years,” says AAE Director, Melanie Howard.…  “Our previous grant found us travelling all over the province. Going forward, we’ll concentrate primarily on return engagement with communities within 300 km of Kingston.”

Justin Gordanier joined AAE on May 9 as the new ACE Coordinator. Gordanier worked previously with the Faculty of Education at Queen’s as a lab technician and as a supply teacher in his home community of Tyendinaga. He’s a qualified teacher of high school biology and physics and holds qualifications in primary, junior, and intermediate education.

Justin Gordanier

NEW ADDITION: "One of the main reasons I applied for this job is to connect with and give back to Aboriginal communities,” says new ACE Coordinator, Justin Gordanier. “Being Aboriginal myself, I understand what it’s like to go through education and try and get past all the barriers.”

AAE already has close partnerships with three area schools and community organizations. Howard says the grant will help grow school partnerships and foster innovation in AAE programs. The grant consists of annual installments of $76,300 over each of the next three years. The PromoScience program supports organizations that help promote science and engineering among primary and secondary students.

AAE was founded in 2010 with a stated aim of increasing the number of Indigenous students in engineering. There are two main methods by which Howard and her team work to that end: outreach and student success. Outreach includes working directly with Indigenous students from kindergarten through Grade 12 to engage them early with engineering-related topics. It also includes presenting workshops to primary and secondary school teachers to help them to develop ways to present STEM subjects with reference to the technology of Aboriginal cultures. Once students start their engineering education at Queen’s, AAE provides various forms of student success support to help ensure they have everything they need to graduate from their engineering program of choice at Queen’s.