Class Close-up: Inspiring Young Engineers

Teacher: Marcus Hultmark, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering

Background: Graduate students in Hultmark’s lab expressed an interest in motivating children to pursue careers in STEM fields and in connecting with other engineering students. 

Focus: The class is studying teaching methods with staff members of the Princeton Program in Teacher Preparation and Liberty Science Center in Jersey City. Students will prepare demonstrations tied to the Next Generation Science Standards — adopted by 26 states — and present them to 80 fourth-graders from Harlem Prep Elementary School in May.

On the syllabus: Scholarly articles on topics such as why women opt out of STEM fields and sources of early interest in science; the Next Generation Science Standards for grades 1–4.

Student perspective: “Growing up, I was not the typical engineer who always knew I would pursue a career in the field — it was through school and the help of certain mentors that I was able to make that decision,” said Katherine Kokmanian, a second-year Ph.D. student. “I would in turn like to show children what engineering is all about.” 

What’s next: An online manual for parents and teachers on how to create their own engineering demonstrations.

Key takeaway: “People tend to think that everyone else is like themselves, and that’s how you tend to structure things [in the classroom],” Hultmark said. “But if you have the knowledge that that notion is not true, you’ll think differently.”

For the Record

This story was updated to correct the name of the elementary school where the engineering students will be presenting their demonstrations in May.