Youth outreach team builds diversity in STEM through early engineering education

Posted on March 25, 2022


How can engineering meaningfully embrace diversity? With innovative, new summer programming for Black youth and young people identifying as girls, and an extending field of operations, Queen’s Engineering Connections, the faculty’s K-12 engineering outreach program, is moving to help address this issue at its roots.

“Increasing diversity in science, technology, engineering and math is a key goal for Queen’s Engineering – one-third of the Faculty’s newly released strategic plan is dedicated to ‘Engineering for Everyone,’” says Scott Compeau, the manager of Connections, an outreach unit at Queen’s Engineering that specializes in K-12 engineering education. “Broadening the diversity of the Faculty, and of the profession, is a mandate that extends beyond our undergraduate recruitment. It takes a deep reach to ensure we’re encouraging youth from traditionally underrepresented groups to consider engineering in the first place.”

The Connections team is introducing some new programming in the spring and summer of 2022, bringing more innovation to its services while expanding its area of operations. One example is their exclusive programming for young people identifying as female, which will be delivered not only in Kingston, but in the GTA in collaboration with Camp Engies, and through a hybrid model that allows both in-person attendance as well as virtual registrations.

“Our COVID-mandated virtual all-girls programs were a huge success in our last seasons,” says Lexi Davidson, Outreach Coordinator at Queen’s Connections. “Our students have been tremendously excited about returning to in-person learning this year, but various parents have reached out asking about virtual programming as well, due to distance, comfort levels, or other factors. So, we have incorporated virtual options into the Queen’s Summer Engineering Academy for girls.”

“In this way, our scope of service is widened from the Kingston-Frontenac region to theoretically nationwide,” Compeau says. “Our team introduces girls from grades 1 through 8, broken into grade cohorts, to engineering topics ranging from ecology to chemical engineering. These courses are delivered by an all-female staff, contributing to a comfortable female-positive space where young girls can thrive” For the Grade 7/8 girls, we are also offering the opportunity to experience Queen’s University campus by registering for our overnight programing, staying in residence?

Now in its second year of operation, the Black Youth in STEM outreach initiative continues to grow and expand. “We have had tremendous success in engaging Black K-12 children in the Kingston and Frontenac area in STEM education,” says Cressana Williams-Massey, Program Team Lead for the initiative. “It has been very rewarding to not only see our work recognized in the Kingston community, but throughout the province. We currently have participants enrolled from: Frankford, Toronto, Ajax, Ottawa, Oshawa, Pickering, Whitby, St. Catherines, Brampton and Markham. This has provided for a rich learning experience, as each child brings a different perspective to the workshops when carrying out their assigned science or engineering task.”

Neighbouring regions have seen, and want to adopt, the Black Youth in STEM model. Williams-Massey is currently embarking on a partnership with the Durham Catholic District School Board and Ontario Tech University to implement a summer engineering program for Black youth in that region as well.

“The Durham collaboration will lead to an in-person Queen’s Summer Engineering Academy learning experience, this summer.” she explains “The more mature Durham students will be invited to Kingston to participate in the in-person Black Youth in STEM summer program, where we will continue working with them in STEM education.” Williams-Massey continues on to say, “A primary goal of our program is to use fun and interactive activities to facilitate a deeper understanding and love of STEM education. Through our in-person summer camps, we want to show Black youth that Queen’s University is the place to embark on their STEM journey.”

Full details on these programs – and other summer offerings from the Queen’s Engineering Connections team – can be found at their website.

 

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