Dr. Laura Bottomley, an engineering professor and recipient of a Presidential Award for Excellence, develops science and engineering programs, but not just for her students at NC State University. Dr. Bottomley is inspired to teach children about engineering because, she says, they often surprise her with fascinating ideas. “After one of our recent workshops, a third-grade student greeted me in the hallway and said he wanted to discuss some ideas he had on nuclear fusion,” she recalled. "He was interested in gaining further knowledge on the topic." To assist teachers in sharing engineering concepts with young students, Dr. Bottomley has expanded her outreach efforts to providing resources such as The Enginnering Place, NC State University's K-20 education and resource headquarters for exploring engineering.
Mentor Liz Parry, coordinator of STEM partnership development for Engineering is Elementary, facilitates the incorporation of engineering in the elementary school curriculum. With a degree in engineering management (and a minor in mechanical engineering), Parry also serves as a certified Engineering is Elementary (EIE) trainer. Each unit in the EIE curriculum begins with a storybook that presents a problem requiring the help of an engineer to solve. The stories are set in locations around the world and involve a diverse set of children. For more information about EIE, visit the Museum of Science, Boston, website at www.mos.org/eie/.
Bottomley and Parry share their enthusiasm for engineering not only with students, but with teachers. Both serve as mentors for Kenan Fellow Justin Osterstrom. A 21st Century Teacher at A.B. Combs Elementary School in Wake County, Osterstrom has created Kindergarten and First Grade activites that teach teamwork and design, enhance Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills, and expose students to different fields of engineering. He also worked with elementary school students at the NC State summer engineering camp, and is collaborating with college students in a course that focuses on STEM research in elementary classrooms.
"Before becoming a Kenan Fellow I thought I would pursue becoming a school administrator much earlier in my career," Osterstrom explained. "The Kenan Fellows Program has reinvigorated my career and created a desire to stay in the classroom longer than I originally planned. I am more committed to bringing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math to all learners because of my mentors and fellowship through the Kenan Fellows Program."