Hi Charles, I agree. The LEGO Mindstorms kit provides the right engineering educational challenge for kids in middle school through high school. I've used these kits in outreach programs while working at Chrylser and wrote two books as well. Now, the Arduino is being used to train the next gen of engineers with its ease in software programming and electronics interfacing capabilities. I've written a book on the Arduino and currently I'm writing two new books on the product with projects for Apress and Make (Spin out of O'Reilly Media) publishers. The intent of my books is to engage kids and adults with engineering concepts while building cool electronic gadgets.
Many of today's problems begin in the classroom. The current "education system" [up to grade 12] has regressed over the last 100 years. The 'wizards of curriculum design' focus on standardization and sameness in an effort to establish 'one size fits all education'. The result is similar to companies that establish a single set of rigid quality rules for a number of diverse products - the 'system' becomes more important than the final product. The incentive is for QA folks [or teachers] to blindly follow a set of rules. When a system like this is used for an extended period of time, it tends to cause creative and talented QA folks [and teachers] to flee and 'drones' to be attracted. A proper QA system [and educational system] is aware that the output is a diverse set of products and different processes must be used. This analogy is not perfect but it does point out a major flaw in the current education system - a monolythic curriculum [yes, there are slight variations] focused on a single standardized test.
As long as teachers are coerced into using a curriculum focused on standardized tests we will have less learning and interest in the classroom - and less chance to stimulate interests and prepare SOME students in science and technology. Public education needs to be focused on creating multiple learning tracks and educating students as opposed to having 'classroom supervisors' regurgitate a standard set of material.
I agree Charles. I think this is where parental and community involvement in schools are so important. From my experience with my kids, schools are willing to step up and support thses types of programs if they receive support from within the community. I taught a robotics club at my son's middle school during the school day once a week a couple of years ago and the school was happy to facilitate a time for it. I have also seen schools in our area with an electronics/robotics program which were not previously available. It is amazing what can be accomplished when folks in the community step forward and offer support and encouragement. It would also be very cool for corporate support to occur - like an "adopt a school" program where engineers mentor the students on a regular basis.
The unemployment rate among electrical engineers in 2011 was 3.4%, lower than the average among all engineering disciplines of 5.1%, and far below the general population. The median salary among electrical engineers is $89,000, again above the average among all engineers and way above the general population. So on the whole, EE's have it pretty good.
I've heard stories of people having a hard time getting jobs, but everybody is having a hard time in this economy, and most people have it a lot worse. Where I live, unemployment is well over 10%, and those who do work often make minimum wage or less. I absolutely encourage young people in my community to pursue engineering as a career. Is it a guarantee of unrelenting success? Of course not; nothing is.
But it beats cleaning toilets, and most importantly, it's a lot of fun.
Are you serious? Try actually reading the job req! They'll ask for five years of experience with a computer language that's only been around for three. They don't "discriminate based on age" but if you submit a resume and (even though the resume doesn't disclose it) you're over the age of 50 (or in some cases 40) they consult an 'alternative' database so they know your age ANYWAY and your resume will never even get read! The reqs for software engineers will even mandate issues such as "familiar with XYZ Software ADA Compiler Version 3.58.1067c" which is so darned SPECIFIC that practically the only person qualified is the same guy who quit last week because he couldn't take the schedule pressure. I even knew a young engineer who took a job in network software before he even had his BSEE, and the same employer fired him a few years later telling him (at the ripe old age of 26) he was "over the hill". Or sometimes they just post a position so the company can "claim" they couldn't find a competent applicant so the government will issue them an H1B visa so they can bring over an immigrant (frequently at a VERY low salary) to fill the position. The conclusion you should get here is that the number of reqs a company posts may bear absolutely NO relation to the number of people they intend to actually hire, or would expect to find, and the process is so difficult and unfair that most of it ought to be outlawed and start over with a clean sheet and mandate massive changes to the process to give the applicant some chance of knowing where he/she actually stands with regard to a posted opening.
In looking at available jobs in the VA area, software and electrical engineering show the most hits. I would reccomend engineering to any kid that asked me for career advice. If you are good and willing to go to the job, there are jobs available.
Are you DELIBERATELY misreading the terms here?? THe acronym "STEM" has only been introduced in the past few years to refer to an informal initiative to get high school kids interested in getting an education that would lead to an engineering career, and the promotion of those objectives by holding robotic competitions, science fairs and other activities. I am also a trained engineer so OBVIOUSLY I'm not opposed to the education itself. Now when I went to school the engineering administration refused to allow anyone to graduate from that school and call hmself "an XXX engineering graduate" until he had taken and successfully passed three consecutively more difficult semesters of quantum mechanics which I of course did. Now sometimes I'll hear the argument "do we REALLY need to teach algebra in high school?" when I was already all the way through integral calculus by that point in my own education, so yes once in awhile I'll find myself in some disagreement with modern curriculum decisions, but I DO think I've earned the right to take umbrage if I hapen to be accused by blogger pinheads of not being fully supportive of the premise of education in higher math for prospective engineers, thank you very much!!!!!
It's interesting that you mentioned Lego Mindstorms, Dave. Mindstorms is unique in that it's simple enough fo high schoolers and complex enough for introductory classes at MIT. In a perfect educational world, all high school students would be exposed to Mindstorms or products like it.
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