Published in Structural Engineers Association of California (SEAOC) 2022 Convention, September 1, 2022.
A challenge that continues to face the structural engineering (SE) profession is the recruitment and retention of individuals from underrepresented minority (URM) groups, underscored over the years by findings reported on by the SE3 project committee. One approach to address this is by developing and conducting early outreach efforts with diverse populations of K-12 students, so they are aware of SE’s meaningful contributions to society and the intriguing technical problem- solving opportunities in this field. During these educational activities it is also important for young students to be exposed to engineering practitioner-educators who represent diverse backgrounds and whose lived experience demonstrates a path forward for URM members in the industry.
This paper focuses on a virtual outreach program offered in Summer 2021, that yields insights about facilitating middle and high school students in a hands-on earthquake engineering project as well as software programming activities. This week- long program was affiliated with the Cal Poly Engineering Possibilities in College (EPIC) summer camp which provides pre-college experiences to students, specifically from underrepresented backgrounds. The instructor team prototyped, manufactured, and shipped over 120 low-cost engineering kits so students could construct a shake table and building model as well as test their baseline and retrofitted designs. These hands-on activities accompanied lectures to help students understand earthquake hazard, seismic design of buildings, instrumentation, and data visualization among other topics.
The curriculum, mail-home engineering kit details, and reflection on student performance will be discussed in the paper to provide readers with a guide for developing meaningful outreach experiences that engage diverse groups of students in exploring SE. The group of all-female instructors will also share their perspective on some potentially effective methods to recruit diverse engineers to participate in outreach: to achieve their aspirations of impact the next generation, cultivate their interest in the SE field, and thus, be motivated to persist and ascend in their careers.
© 2022 SEOC.
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