This engineering education research project will fund a workshop to bring together individuals from the entertainment and media industries with engineering researchers to strategize about how to utilize public service messages to education Americans about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education; focusing particularly on engineering. The organizers of the workshop have prior experience in using media for health messaging, and it is anticipated that this workshop can outline how to adopt a similar strategy to address systemic issues in STEM education.

The broader significance and importance of this project will be to leverage existing media to more broadly engage the United States population on the opportunities in, and need for, more engineering-savvy citizens. Given the focus on the importance of technical innovation for future societal needs, informing a larger portion of the population about the long-term benefits of engineering or themselves pursuing engineering careers can have a significant positive impact. This project overlaps with NSF's strategic goals of transforming the frontiers through preparation of an engineering workforce with new capabilities and expertise. Additionally NSF's goal of innovating for society is enabled by building the capacity of the nation's citizenry for addressing societal challenges through engineering.

Project Report

PI: Gary Kreps Awardee: George Mason University Award Number: 1129421 Award Expires:07/31/2012 Project Summary On February 21 and 22, 2012 a Think Tank of experts representing the entertainment, education, research, communication, science, engineering, government, and corporate communities were convened at George Mason University to create a blueprint for promoting a greater awareness and appreciation for engineering in modern life by elevating engineering into mainstream consciousness through strategic user of media. The five primary Think Tank goals were to: • Create action items for disseminating relevant and motivating information about science, engineering, and technology; • Develop recommendations and strategies for broader impact outreach through the use of media; • Delineate the use of news and entertainment media on various communications channels, • Prioritize conducive media outlets for disseminating relevant information; • Identify knowledge gaps and establish strategies for resolving them and recommend new topics and dissemination strategies. Project Activities and Results Think Tank participants were engaged in a World Café Model of brainstorming and discussion to examine and prioritize communication strategies for promoting engineering with the media: The best promotional mechanisms identified for outreach in order of importance were: Education, Entertainment Media; Social Media; "In the News;" and the Workplace 1. The best mechanisms identified for using education media Included • Positioning Engineering as cross-curricular; • Defining Engineering as glue that unifies curriculum. • Encouraging schools to move towards student-centered project-based learning, (we need examples of engineering projects); • Engaging engineers in community and industry to help plan and as mentors; • Encouraging college engineering faculty to work with k-12 on YouTube and SchoolTube videos and other projects; • Establishing an Americorp- for 4 year colleges and community colleges, for engineers and supporting technicians. 2. The best mechanisms identified for using the entertainment were: • Entertainment: Encourage the creation of situations that pull in engineering-related cartoon characters such as Bob the Builder, Ironman, Johnny Test, Magic School Bus, Phineas & Ferb, and Jimmy Neutron. • Entertainment: Attempt to add a brief spot between certain programs (i.e. Bones, Burn Notice) to highlight the instances where engineering and science were integral in that particular episode. • Maintain consistent effort to imbed new vocabulary in creative process • Create alignment across media platforms to include technical delivery of product to product creation • Integrate audiences more to the process so they are more participatory (American Idol, VOICE etc., select reality shows)…move across media platforms with strategic media partners (radio, TV, print, online) • Develop appropriate signage for TV Shows and Movies similar to product placement promotions • Create specific internet programming for internet TV including Dramatizations, comedy, game shows, and documentary programs accress all audience segments. 3. The best mechanisms identified for using the workplace were: • Mentorship/Interns: Provide programs exposing young people to engineering jobs in the real world work environment to train your future employees. • Internal Awareness: Send out newsletters, articles, videos on a consistent and frequent basis within business and industry and breakdown SILO systems • Work-life Balance: Regulate hours, higher pay, job security, better management engineering, health and wellness endeavors to keep workers. • Altruism & abstract approach and applications. Address challenging social issues concerning global warming, clean water, and the myriad of other fields business and industry are vested in as part of business model or philanthropically. Draw in altruistic approaches and theorists. • Expand definition, levels, pathways, job descriptions, and fields. Focus on the scope of interest and possibilities. 4. The best mechanisms identified for using the news were: • Use the editorial page. Write Op-Eds that link the science/engineering work to national imperatives. • Have the EIC S.E.T. Crew invite journalism schools to submit (for judging) their best science (engineering) story (or stories) for award consideration in SET Awards. • Package story so it is news. Capitalize on "Why does this matter?" How it impacts society and the community. Show off engineers and their programs and programs. • Engineers pitch their own ideas and make journalists aware of them. • Develop a new vocabulary for braoadcast and and print, online (blogger) journalism . 5. The best mechanisms identified for using social media were: • Forum for science, technology, and engineering to form better practices. Provide a forum at the national level to identify educational initiatives pertaining to science. Better practices- What’s working, create alignment, transfer of proven methodological metric: improvement impact. • S.E.T. Portal: Develop a portal for a virtual S.E.T. community that reaches out to affinity groups (e.g. through maker fair (First Robotics) and social media to connect them back to resources for jobs, education, credential programs, mentors, networks, and e-portfolio tools to track and share one’s work/creations.) Conclusion The results from the Think Tank provide a blueprint for developing and implementing new strategies, programs, and applications for communicating engineering, science, and technology effectively to key audiences.

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George Mason University
United States
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