Gayle Gibson Director DuPont (Retired)

Top Five Practical Skills Learned from K-12 Engineering Education

PostedThursday, November 2, 2017 at 10:29 AM

What does an engineering education REALLY teach you?

At DuPont, we see the four disciplines of STEM education – science, technology, engineering and math – working tightly together to translate cutting-edge science and engineering into innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges. We also understand the importance of beginning STEM education at an early age, especially among young women and minorities. After all, STEM fields will have many exciting job openings. And, almost all of the 30 fastest-growing occupations in the next decade will require at least some background in STEM – in addition to reading and writing.

I am an engineer and hire engineers. It is a great career path and more engineers will be needed. I also acknowledge that not every student will want to pursue engineering as a career field. In fact, research tells us that K-12 teachers and students generally have a poor understanding of what engineers do. So, why is it important to introduce engineering concepts and habits of mind to children at an early age? The skills gained are lifelong skills that benefit children and their families regardless of their future career. Hands-on engineering-based projects in the classroom develop these skills:

  1. Teamwork: Children learn to be able to work in teams. Even if disagreements occur, hands-on projects teach children to work towards a common goal, while also learning self-control, empathy, time management and negotiation.
  2. Problem solving: Students discover answers from their own questions and research theories. From this, students learn to think critically, observe and analyze situations in order to form creative solutions based off of problems. 
  3. Communication skills: Communication skills are crucial to any role. Through problem solving, students learn to effectively communicate, both in writing and orally. Children will learn to say what they mean and explain ideas.
  4. Failure is okay: Failure is an important part of finding solutions. Children learn that there often is no single “right” answer in engineering projects. This type of learning removes the stigma that stems from failure, and encourages it as a positive way to learn.
  5. Leadership skills:  During teamwork, leadership skills arise through actions, especially through project management. Common to any job, the “unofficial” project manager will help to establish roles, responsibilities, set priorities and influence opinions to make decisions.

In a nutshell, engineering education is based on real-world problems. It helps foster creativity, habits of perseverance and persistence—attributes that are essential in numerous roles inside and outside of the STEM industry. This core belief has served me well in my career and driven me to become an active promoter and volunteer for numerous STEM education initiatives and programs. At DuPont, our engineers are involved in programs like FIRST robotics, National Science Olympiad, DuPont’s Ag Ambassadors Program and many more.  We see that promoting STEM education early on makes for a successful, well-rounded individual, with the knowledge and ability to apply these key skills as needed to any field.

For more information on the various academic outreach STEM programs DuPont supports and how you can get involved visit our website. What skills have you seen your students gain when they try engineering? Log in and tell us! 

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