Employers find engineers hard to find, but Clemson University is one of the institutions looking to make a breakthrough in this field.
Through a partnership with GE called the Next Engineers program, high school students — or Next Engineers — can get closer to 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 study by Pew Research, only 17% of people entering the field were black or Latino.
On July 22, a cohort of 11th graders had the opportunity to tour Clemson University and see part of the Watt Family Innovation Center, testing virtual reality headsets and 3D printers. Next Engineers also got to experience the Clemson Energy Visualization and Analytics Center, a facility that monitors the carbon footprint of every object on the Clemson campus, down to a tree.
“I wanted to be a mechanical engineer ever 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 Disney theme park attractions.”
The program offers three experiences for students, depending on the grade level. They are:
- Discovery of engineering for 13-14 year olds
- Engineering Camp, a week-long camp experience for 14-15 year olds
- Engineering Academy for 15-18 year olds
In addition to the Greenville schools that Clemson works with – serving Greenville, Pickens, Oconee and Spartanburg counties – there are centers in Johannesburg, South Africa; Staffordshire, UK; and Cincinnati, Ohio.
Through the program, students learn to think like engineers, with the ultimate goal of advancing to a secondary engineering education. Students must complete 80 hours per year of learning outside of the normal classroom environment and may be eligible for a $20,000 scholarship from GE upon completion of the program. Students get everything from immersive design challenges to college prep workshops.
“They come to see me here at the University about twice a month, usually on Saturdays,” said Brittany Fatima Sanders, project manager for Next Engineers Greenville. “We take on technical design challenges; they meet faculty members and participate in activities like this to motivate them to become engineers – and it works.