K-12 Outreach – ChE’s Giving Back

How did you decide to become a chemical engineer? How much did you REALLY know about chemical engineering when you made that decision?

AIChE, through its Societal Impact Operating Council (SIOC), wants to establish a community of its members who are interested in using K-12 outreach as a way to spread the message about the positive impact that chemical engineers have on society, and about the great career opportunities that exist in our profession.

We'll start by sharing some examples of AIChE members who are already making a difference through K-12 outreach.

The Susquehanna local section was chartered in October 1992, to serve chemical engineers in the South-Central Pennsylvania region, which includes Harrisburg and its surrounding counties, including Lancaster, Dauphin, York, and Lebanon. Although starting from a small membership base, the section was active in educational outreach from its very beginning. Early efforts included drives for student scholarships, school visits, shadow programs, science fairs, teacher/science alliances in Lancaster and Lebanon counties, and E-week exhibits for students, parents, and teachers at Harrisburg's Whitaker Center for Science and Arts.

In 2002, the Susquehanna local section joined the Central Pennsylvania Engineering Week Council (CPEWC), consisting of some 15 engineering societies in South-Central Pennsylvania (Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, etc.). At that time, these other engineering-society local sections had very little educational outreach experience. As the Susquehanna section had some history with educational outreach, but a limited volunteer pool, a fruitful partnership was born, leading to the recruitment of many new volunteers to support K-12 programs at many large school districts.

Through CPEWC, E-week activities in the Harrisburg area now include multi-engineering participation. There's even a friendly rivalry among the societies to determine the top four engineering societies during each school year, with awards presented at an E-week banquet. Each year, an individual is recognized as the top Educational Outreach volunteer; over the years, AIChE members have been honored four times. In 2011, the CPEWC outreach program includes approximately 200 volunteers.

So, do you have an outreach story you'd like to share? Or would you like to learn how you can get involved? We'd love to hear from you! You can comment on this blog, or send an email to K12Outreach@ aiche.org.

And, if you haven't done so already, we ask you to respond to our survey on K-12 outreach, which was included in the July edition of AIChExchange.

How did you first learn about chemical engineering?

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Great post Frank. So much is needed in this K-12 outreach area. Glad to see a really positive example of what you're doing.

ehorahan's picture

Thats great that the Harrisburg area schools are so receptive to interaction and that the Engineering network is so large there. What do you think is the best way to approach a school? The Principal or the science teachers? Or is there another way that has had good results?

Cory's picture

The Rocky Mountain local section has involved in outreach for sometime, I will see if I can get someone to write up what has been done in the past. I have been working with Denver Public schools, the Colorado School of Mines and a Golden non-profit organization called the Renewable Energy Development Center. I will see if I can summarize some of this work as it happens, have to coordinate a design class first but should be able to get some great media from the work.