BTN LiveBIG: Purdue makes the season bright for future engineers

BTN LiveBIG: Purdue makes the season bright for future engineers

Still behind on your holiday shopping? Looking for good presents for children? And do those kids show any inclination toward building and designing things?

If you answered “yes” to all three of those questions, then Purdue University’s College of Engineering Education has just the thing for you: a holiday gift guide that’s filled with toys, games and entertainment that make engineering concepts fun and accessible for pre-college learners.

You read that correctly — “fun” and “engineering” in the very same gift.

The gift guide actually has two parts: The first lists a range of toys, kits and media appropriate for children of various ages, and the second gives parents a number of tips for encouraging their kids’ interest in engineering.

Inspire Director and Purdue Professor Monica Cardella said many of the gifts in the guide provide direct exposure to basic engineering concepts, but added that they’re also intended to encourage characteristics like persistence, teamwork, and coming up with and improving on new ideas. She also stressed the importance of “allowing them to fail in order to show how failure is a learning experience in and of itself.”

The gift guide was developed under the auspices of the Institute for Pre-College Engineering, or INSPIRE, research institute. Purdue’s College of Engineering Education created the organization to overcome barriers to entry in this field for young learners before they’ve ever been subjected to them.

This guide might seem like a fairly basic resource, but it’s the result of more than five years of study. INSPIRE researched the academic pursuits of children who had parents with an engineering background, and contrasted that group with kids whose parents worked in a non-engineering field.

The research showed that the majority of kids who become engineers are a part of the former group. It’s also clear that engineering is a male-dominated sector, in which certain ethnicities prevail.

Consequently, another goal for developing the guide is to inspire young people outside of the typical background to consider engineering as an academic and professional path.

So if you’ve made a list, check it twice to find out if there’s a child in your life who might benefit from a present in this guide. It might be a stepping stone to a future that’s merry and bright.

By Jill Gordon

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