Encouraging the next generation of employees and entrepreneurs to consider engineering is important to us at SL Controls, so we jumped at the opportunity to get involved with STEAM Education again. Last year, two of our engineers had a fantastic experience teaching children in a Sligo primary school about engineering topics and concepts.
This time it was the turn of SL Controls engineers Oonagh Wynne and Garry Collopy. They have been teaching a one-hour lesson once a week to 4th Class Pupils at Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh, Limerick. The programme, called Engineering in a Box, lasts 10 weeks and is designed to teach the children about the basic concepts of engineering in a fun way that sparks their enthusiasm and interest.
“One thing I remember from when I was in 4th class is we did this science exercise with our teacher that involved electrical circuits,” said Oonagh. “I remember doing that and it really stuck with me as something new. As I went further through education and into my career I can see how it really impacted me, by introducing me to magnets and electronics. When this opportunity with STEAM Education and SL Controls came up as an option, I thought it would be a great thing to do with the kids.
“I want to inspire them about engineering, and even though I don’t want to encourage one gender more than another, it would be great to get more girls interested in engineering and encourage them to study it.”
Range of Topics
There is a different topic and task in each week of the 10-week course, with the topic areas covering everything from infrastructure to water to energy to the environment.
Garry said: “To give you an example, one of the weeks involved building boats using various arts and crafts materials. The kids had to first make boats that could float in water, then they had to see how much weight their boat could take.
“All the kids in the class are very enthusiastic. Whenever we arrive at the class each week, they are always asking us what we are going to build, what we are going to do. They are a great bunch of kids, all helping each other, and all still interested week after week.”
Oonagh added: “It’s also amazing how much the kids already know. They are learning, but they also know so much, particularly about environmental issues and topics.
“Before we started the kids did a survey about what they want to be when they get older. There were mixed responses, but they included those you would expect like becoming a footballer or baker. I think we are opening their eyes about engineering, and they now know more about what engineers do.”
Garry says it has been a rewarding experience for himself and Oonagh too: “I have kids in 5th and 2nd class and I am learning things that I can pass onto them. It is very fulfilling. I’ve also had experience lecturing, but it is much more fun teaching the primary school class, especially when you see the enthusiasm, and when they ask what you have to do to become an engineer.”