Over the past few weeks Year 4 have been taking part in the I’m An Engineer Get Me Out of Here event funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering. This is a free online event where school students meet and interact with engineers. Before the event started, the children were asked to think of three questions that they could ask about engineering. Some excellent examples were generated.
We spent the first Monday afternoon following the half-term holiday looking at the website and getting to know the engineers – what their hobbies were, what music they liked etc. We then, as a class, decided what we thought the 5 most important criteria were for an engineer. There was a long list to choose from, but after some debate, we agreed on the following (in no particular order):-
- My work finds new uses for unwanted materials.
- My work helps save people’s lives.
- I work to make our soldiers safer.
- I make things really efficient.
- I go to events like lectures and press conferences to tell people about my work.
There was then an opportunity for the children to start posting some of their questions onto the website. We had opted for what was called the Ampere Zone which was general engineering. This fitted in well with our current Electricity topic, as we were able to look at the meaning of ampere and were it originated.
As this was a general engineering zone, the six engineers we were chatting with were from very different backgrounds – all very interesting: – one makes the water flushed from toilets drinkable, one builds wind farms in Africa and one studies how to create new smart and flexible wings for airplanes; one 3D prints spaceships, satellites and armoured fighting vehicles out of metal, one manages distance learning programmes, and another designs systems that drive trains automatically. Wow! Lot of potential here for learning.
Our questions posted, we sat back and waited. Over the next few days we checked the website on a regular basis to see if we had received any answers. The children each had their own individual user names and passwords, so they could do this at home, as well. Most mornings someone came in with the exciting news that they had received a response. We made sure that they were printed out and stuck in our Homework books with the original questions.
Here are some of the answers we received. See if you can work out the questions!
On Tuesday 16th March, we had booked a Live Chat with the engineers. This involved half an hour of the children bombarding the engineers with questions in a live session. The conversations were tracked on the screen and there was a whoop of excitement whenever someone had their question answered. Everyone was very engaged during the half hour and all agreed that it was a very worthwhile activity to take part in and they would recommend it to other teachers. All I can say, is that it must have been exhausting for the engineers at the other end, trying to keep up with 32 children typing at them!
The children kept a note of the answers they received and copied them into their books immediately after the session. It has certainly given them a lot to think about, and widened their understanding of what it means to be engineer.
There was also a link that appeared on the screen after the live session had finished, which allowed us to download the entire chat transcript.
I would recommend this to anyone interested in promoting engineering in their school. And, it was very easy to do.