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We started as a three passionate students studying at the University of Calgary, focusing on research topics related to Engineering Education (EngEd). As graduate students, we quickly learned most conversations and introductions start with an inquiry about our area of study. When we answered “engineering education research,” this would often lead to engaging conversations with people who either already had many ideas and initiatives in the area, or people who simply had a hidden passion for the field. It was evident to us that many people, including students, academics, professors and the general public, were interested in the area of EngEd. We also recognized that there seemed to be a gap in the Canadian culture of EngEd, particularly surrounding the awareness of the field of research as a viable topic of study for students.
In the fall of 2014, we were able to formalize ourselves as a University of Calgary Graduate Research Network called the Engineering Education Students’ Society (E²S²). We felt by creating a formal network, we would be able to increase and improve collaboration with others who have expressed interest in connecting. Currently, E²S² has about 20 members, including graduate students, undergraduate students, professors and academics. Nationally and internationally, there are also a dozen people who have requested to remain in touch through E²S² initiatives.
Within E²S² we have three main branches of focus: Beakerhead, Maker and Professional Development. The goals of these branches range from connecting those interested in engineering education and keeping everyone up to date on current research, to offering supplementary activities for students that provide hands-on opportunities to put into practice some of the newer research concepts in engineering education.
In the summer of 2014, E2S2 launched a small collaborative project with the University of Calgary branch of Let’s Talk Science and Beakerhead (beakerhead.com), Calgary’s world-renowned engineering and arts festival co-founded by Jay Ingram and Mary Anne Moser. The project resulted in an educational art car that provided hands-on exploration of physics, biology, music, and electrical circuit concepts. The interactive innovation was exhibited by graduate students to the general public for five days, and reached thousands of audience members. Based on the enthusiastic response from both the public and the involved graduate students, E2S2 is expanding our Beakerhead presence through multiple team projects. These projects will commence in January 2015, and include the expansion of the current art car, the development of a scientific performance display, and a possible interactive technology project. The Beakerhead branch of E2S2 incorporates research from our members who are passionate about cutting-edge techniques for developing creativity within engineering design and improving the public perceptions of the engineering profession.
The Maker branch of E2S2 is based on experiential learning and self-directed learning. The goal of this branch is to enhance students’ hands-on technical ability and confidence by leveraging students’ intrinsic motivation towards their projects. Sufficient experience with tools, spatial thinking and troubleshooting is the key component to a complete engineering educational experience. Thus the Maker culture was chosen as an effective avenue to bring these experiences to students.
Groups of students are able to pick their own tinkering-style projects and bring them to life through weekly collaboration at the local Makerspace called Protospace. The ability for each student to choose a project close to their interests helps to facilitate active learning through intrinsic motivation. At the space, students have unlimited options to make anything, from a custom computer mouse, to personally designed jewelry, to one-of-a-kind silicone chocolate molds! The Makerspace facilitates access to training, machines and tools, as well as an endless supply of know-how from the community members. At the end of the day, students are able to take home something they created, in addition to some hands-on technical ability.
The Professional Development branch of E2S2 focuses on developing non-technical engineering skills in students and keeping students up to date with Engineering Education research. Regular journal club meetings allow students to have an opportunity to discuss the most recent advances in the field. Observers who are less familiar with Engineering Education are also given an opportunity to see what research is being done and provide some of their own personal input. Skill-development workshops, for example leadership and teamwork, are designed to be interactive, educational and applicable to engineering. It is emphasized that these are engineering skills and they are essential to success in one’s engineering career. This branch of E2S2 utilizes the knowledge from our members who are engaged with the most recent research on the importance of developing a “whole” engineer.
Although we are at the beginning of our journey, we wanted to share our story for others who are passionate about EngEd at their home institution, and who also feel that there is an opportunity for further collaboration with those who share the same passions and interests. Our initiatives are not only met to reach out to others interested in EngEd, but also to tie into the research being conducted at the University of Calgary and further the knowledge in these fields. We are looking forward to growing as a research network, and encourage those who are interested in our work to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit our website at https://e2s2ucalgary.wordpress.com.
Robyn, Emily and Lauren are all graduate students at the Schulich School of Engineering (University of Calgary) researching in the field of Engineering Education. Robyn is doing her Master’s studying the impact that teaching leadership to engineers has on their career success. Emily is doing her PhD studying creativity in engineering and gamification for circuit design algorithms. Lauren is doing her Master’s studying the importance of service learning in engineering.