For a long time, science was simply carried on a few times a week in the classroom until students interested in the various sciences could choose their majors in college or university. Children simply didn’t have the opportunity to experience science and technology in a “hands-on” way, which, as we all know, is the best way to learn. Engineering for Kids is changing that through a partnership with the College of Southern Nevada (CSN). After teaching children between the ages of 9 and 14 in recreation centers, schools, libraries and other venues, the organization is now looking for a permanent home.
“Our society is creating more jobs in engineering and technology,” says Leo Silva, the owner of Engineering for Kids in Las Vegas. “We should be training our students to be prepared for those jobs after college.”
With the growth and development of technology, it’s important to get kids excited and motivated to learn vital skills and to question the how and why associated with science. According to Engineering for Kids, during the past 10 years the number of STEM jobs grew three times faster than jobs outside those skills. The U.S. Department of Labor has projected that more than 1.2 million job openings will be in STEM fields by 2018.
The focus on elementary and middle school aged children gives them an edge that they may otherwise have not experienced. Through CSN’s Community and Personal Enrichment program, it is offering courses such as robotics engineering and video game design. Applications opened Dec. 1. Robotics and engineering runs Feb. 16 through March 29 and video game design runs March 3 to April 14. Classes cost $160. Any child can apply, with parents signing students in, and classes are taught mainly by retired engineering professionals who work with Engineering for Kids, which was initially started in Virginia five years ago by Dori Roberts, a high school engineering teacher and mother who wanted to get kids interested in STEM programming. Three years ago, she franchised Engineering for Kids, with locations popping up throughout the U.S. and internationally. The franchise was first introduced to Southern Nevada in 2015.
Problem-solving is taught alongside hands-on experiences to enhance knowledge instead of simply having kids memorize facts and figures from books. This helps children with their critical thinking, helping them as they pass through junior high and high school. They also hope to attract girls to join the programs to give them an outlet for their own talents and to bring more women into the traditionally male-dominated careers associated with engineering.
Their goal is to have a brick-and-mortar school established as soon as possible to have a permanent home and be able to grow class sizes and offer the experience to more students. Locally, Silva is setting up a scholarship that would be awarded to a student in foster care.