TryEngineering is hoping to expand its audience by going smaller. The online education site for teachers, parents, and students has rolled out a mobile version, for the first time optimizing its content for smartphones.
The site provides a plethora of engineering resources, including hands-on classroom activities, games, lesson plans, and information about engineering careers and university programs. The move to mobile was driven by the realization that educators and students, the prime targets, preferred to visit the site from their mobile devices rather than from laptop and desktop computers. “As more people rely on their mobile devices to get information, we wanted to make sure our users around the world could access TryEngineering from anywhere at any time,” says Elizabeth Kurzawa, educational outreach program manager for IEEE Educational Activities, in Piscataway, N.J.
After the mobile site launched in September, TryEngineering received more than 195,000 visitors the following month. About 40,000 of those visitors accessed the site on a mobile phone, which is double the percentage of those who visited the site using their mobile devices prior to the launch.
PREPARE TO LAUNCH
Creating the mobile site, which was funded by a grant from the IEEE Foundation, required several months of work. The English version of the site alone contains more than 4,000 pages, so it was no small feat, says Kurzawa. The site is available in eight other languages, including Chinese, Russian, and Spanish.
Designing user-friendly pages required more than just shrinking items down to fit handheld screens. With the help of IEEE volunteers and a team of educators, Contempt Productions—the vendor that built the site—not only resized and redesigned all the graphics but also developed a new navigation menu and optimized the site for touch-screen devices, enabling finger-swiping for faster navigation. The final version provides quick access to the site’s many resources, such as tips on how to become an engineer, a news blog, and 116 lesson plans for educators.
“The resources on TryEngineering include hands-on activities, so having it available on a smartphone will enable students to refer to them wherever they are, whether it’s in the classroom, on a school trip, or at home,” says IEEE Member Liz Burd, who is a volunteer for the website. The activities include exercises to build robotic arms, construct a popsicle-stick bridge, and create series and parallel electrical circuits.
One highlight of the new mobile site is its searchable database of accredited university engineering programs. The database is updated regularly with schools from around the world.
The mobile site also has an updated list of recommended apps that can help students learn new engineering skills. For example, these apps show students how to build bridges, solve physics problems, and observe NASA’s satellites as they orbit Earth. “The apps help students learn while having fun,” Kurzawa says.
The new site has already gotten positive feedback. “When we recently attended the Science Teachers Association of Ontario conference, the teachers confirmed that the mobile site is going to be a big asset in their classrooms,” Kurzawa says.
The team is also asking for feedback from users via an online form. The TryEngineering team is already planning its next steps for the site, which will include more content and coverage of more areas of technology.