Engineers and Educators Teaching Next Generation of STEM Students

Manhattan College faculty and students are using engineering education to develop future STEM leaders.

Kelly Grogan with high school students in Fischbach roomSince 2014, Manhattan College’s STAR (Scholar Training and Retaining) Program has worked to support and promote engineering education for middle and high school teachers.  

The program was made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). It provides a group of Manhattan engineering and education students – the Engineering Ambassadors – the opportunity to present workshops on opportunities available in STEM-related fields at local middle and high school schools that serve underrepresented groups.

The Engineering Ambassadors program puts students in real-life situations where they have to design and present lessons to junior high school and high school students. The aim is to provide first-hand teaching experience while improving their professional skills. Kelly Grogan ’19, a civil engineering major, took advantage of this program to explore careers in both engineering and education.

I loved my education classes,” Grogan said. “I learned a lot about the way people learned. I even think I look at my professors differently now from my classes.” Grogan will graduate this May through the STAR program and receive a certificate in engineering education.

Helping STEM Students Think Critically

Grogan’s interest in pursuing an education career drove her to Engineering Ambassadors during her freshman year. “In my education classes, we learned to encourage [students] to think critically, and not necessarily tell them or show them what to do from an engineering standpoint,” Grogan explained. “I loved working with the high school students and seeing what they came up with.”

One of our main goals in the Engineering Ambassadors program was to introduce engineering at an earlier age,” said Zahra Shahbazi, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical engineering and the advisor of Engineering Ambassadors. “We’ve also wanted to show the students what a college looks like and they can learn about being an engineering student.”

Shahbazi has seen high school students who enjoy math and science but may not have hands-on experience with different types of engineering. To Shahbazi and Sister Mary Ann Jacobs, Ed.D., associate professor of education, it is important to increase awareness about engineering’s many disciplines.

“I’m hoping that Manhattan College can become known as a school that has started this partnership with schools interested in STEM, and particularly the ‘missing E’ – education,” Jacobs said. “We want to help them as teachers to incorporate engineering in the classrooms, and show that we have a program to do that,” Sister Mary Ann says.

Jacobs and Shahbazi are currently working on another grant proposal for elementary school students to build on the foundation the STAR program has provided for students like Kelly Grogan and a number of New York City high school students. Their hope is to have those students continue lifelong STEM education and bring their own education into classrooms for years and decades to come.

–Paula Espitia '20