In its fourth year, the USA Science and Engineering Festival will bring together some 350,000 people in April in Washington, D.C., to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers through hundreds of hands-on activities and events. IEEE-USA organizes events at each one.
Held every two years, the festival will take place 16 and 17 April. Attracting students, parents, and teachers (and engineers, too) to its booth, IEEE-USA—a media partner of the event—offers fun and informative experiences to those who stop by. At the last event, for example, IEEE-USA ran an activity in which kids learned how to wire various switches and light bulbs, including LEDs. They also received coding lessons with help from the IEEE Computer Society. Many parents return with their kids, some of whom ask to see the “electric people,” also known as IEEE volunteers.
And we, the “electric people,” shed our company’s ID badges, leave behind our laptops, put on our most comfortable shoes and our IEEE-USA branded “safety orange” color T-shirts, and show up to staff the booth. IEEE-USA presidents also attend, using the booth as a pulpit to promote the organization’s commitment to STEM education. With so much enthusiasm from attendees, the festival has served as a wakeup call to the organization, recognizing the demand for STEM education must be supported outside of the two-day event as well.
The activities are the result of IEEE-USA’s K-12 STEM Literacy Committee’s tireless work as well as IEEE-USA’s and IEEE’s overall commitment to STEM. Other efforts in this area include getting involved in science fairs and projects at local libraries. IEEE leaders understand the importance of promoting STEM education, and engineering in particular. The best advocates, after all, are engineers.
With attendance at the festival growing each year, IEEE-USA can use your help to volunteer at our booth. As a volunteer, you will help explain to students what it’s like to be an engineer and answer questions they have about the profession. You also help oversee two interactive activities, including one in which participants crank a dynamo (an electric generator that produces direct current) to feel how much power each type of bulb uses.
To volunteer at this year’s USA Science and Engineering Festival, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dusty Fisher is past chair of IEEE-USA’s K-12 STEM Literacy Committee and has served on the IEEE Educational Activities Board. Fisher was recognized by The Engineer’s Council with the Distinguished STEM Educator Award. She provides strategy to global tech companies, and has launched the Digital Skills Lab to provide insight into the tech tools and skills needed by today’s U.S. workforce. She has been an IEEE member for more than 10 years.