Maybe I Want to be an Engineer

Sep 12, 2019

Starting a Conversation About the Possible
Imagine the reaction of a 12-year-old the first time she is offered the opportunity to design and 3-D print a brand-new pair of sneakers. In science class. At school
Chances are it will blow her mind. More importantly, it will forever open her eyes to the possibilities of an engineering career--the ways she can leverage technology to change her world for the better.
The initiative that makes this possible is INSPIRE, ASME’s signature STEM education program. ASME INSPIRE is one part of a comprehensive arc of programs designed to support aspiring engineers at every stage of their journey, from early inspiration and learning through career development and first innovations.
“Schools prepare kids to take a test, but a lot of times schools don’t really prepare kids to get into the field,” says Raymond Tran, the STEM/Math Talent teacher at Cavallaro Middle School in Brooklyn, NY. “This program actually gives them that experience.”
Cavallaro is one of more than 1,300 public schools nationwide where ASME INSPIRE is expanding young minds, engaging students’ curiosity, and empowering both student and teacher to explore engineering with confidence.
Says Ayaan, an eighth-grade INSPIRE graduate, “It’s not just a program, it’s a new way of life. With INSPIRE you think, ‘maybe I want to be an engineer.’ Not a lot of people think that when they’re younger, but you think about engineering when it’s introduced to you.”
That’s exactly the reaction Karen Ohland was hoping to hear during a recent visit to Cavallaro Middle School. Ohland, associate director for finance and operations at the Princeton University Art Museum and a former member of the ASME Board of Governors, warns that “Too few K-12 students are learning and becoming passionate about science and technology.” Through INSPIRE, she says, “Students learn engineers are problem-solvers for good.  At Cavallaro I saw children who were excited and eager to learn more, to experiment.”
Communicating the excitement of engineering is central to ASME’s mission and INSPIRE squarely addresses that imperative. “ASME knows that we need ever more diverse engineers to solve the increasingly complex problems facing humankind,” notes Ohland, “and even global challenges like a clean, safe water supply require local solutions. We are committed to reaching, inspiring and preparing the next generation of innovators.” 
The ultimate goal for ASME INSPIRE is to deliver a bigger, better prepared, and more diverse pipeline of K-12 students who are energized about pursuing engineering in college. To accomplish that, the online and in-class program uses videos, animations, and gaming scenarios to build students’ knowledge of engineering and core STEM concepts. Modules focus on leading-edge topics like big data, 3D printing, the algorithms that power the web, and on the latest manufacturing and design technologies.
And judging from the numbers, INSPIRE works. Student assessments show that INSPIRE boosts participants’ knowledge of STEM skills by 112 percent and increases interest in engineering fields by 71 percent.  Educators appreciate the ease with which ASME INSPIRE integrates into their existing curriculum, giving the program outstanding ratings, including a Net Promoter Score of 76, which earns it the “world class” program designation.
“Students at this age often lack the knowledge of engineering and STEM-related careers along with the confidence to see themselves in these roles,” says Lesa Levi, a guidance counselor at Missouri’s Platte City Middle School. “ASME INSPIRE starts a conversation about the possible. All students, regardless of family income, can aspire to a career in the STEM path.”
ASME offers INSPIRE free to schools, and many that utilize it are designated as Title 1, with at least 40 percent of the student body coming from low-income households. In the five years since ASME launched INSPIRE, almost 300,000 K-12 students have completed the program. By forging fundraising alliances with corporate and institutional collaborators, the ASME Foundation is working to dramatically expand the INSPIRE footprint with the aim of exposing countless more young minds to the unlimited possibilities of an engineering career.