LSU Helps Students to ENGage in Engineering
More than 150 middle school students, grades 6-8, recently took a break from their normal class schedule to attend college for a day.
Specifically, the students visited the LSU College of Engineering as part of ENGage LSU, an initiative started by Adrienne Steele, STEP manager for the college, and Adam Melvin, assistant professor in the LSU Cain Department of Chemical Engineering. The duo created the program to attract students at an early age to STEM – or science, technology, engineering and mathematics – related fields.
The students participated in demonstrations like producing electricity using seawater and river water with battery systems and showing how small amounts of fluid can complete a chemical reaction to diagnose a disease using microfluidic devices made of patterned paper.
“Although young children seem to have an inherent desire to explore STEM activities, most students lose interest in pursuing a career in these fields in middle school,” Melvin said. “Exposing students to STEM experiences in middle school, and even earlier, can have a positive impact on their choice of career in the future. With the growing workforce demand for STEM professionals, it is important to reach children at this critical juncture in their development.”
The group of students represented Baton Rouge College Prep, Belfair Montessori Magnet School, Capital Middle Magnet School, Greenville Superintendent’s Academy, North Banks Middle School of Excellence and Woodlawn Middle School.
Additionally, 52 percent were female and 83 percent were minority students.
“While 20.8 percent of all engineering bachelor’s degrees in 2016 were earned by females, only 3.9 percent were African American and 10.7 percent were Hispanic,” Steele said. “These numbers are far lower for women of color. With the low percentage of females and ethnic minorities represented in STEM careers and the high percentage of these underrepresented groups attending public schools in Louisiana, more students should be exposed to these types of engineering career possibilities.”
The hope for Steele and Melvin is that the program will help do just that. Melvin said that if interest continues, they will examine offering the program twice a year in both the fall and spring semesters. Another possibility is to include faculty from departments outside of the College of Engineering.
For this event, students met with 14 faculty members from biological, chemical, electrical, environmental and mechanical engineering, as well as construction management.
Contact: Joshua Duplechain
Director of Communications