Education session comment piece: “Education is not about filling a pail, it is about lighting a fire” – Dean Kamen

If we are to meet our global challenges, we need to educate a new generation of engineers who are more representative of our society, and have a portfolio of skills and attributes which go beyond traditional engineering curricula.  To meet these needs, pioneering schools, universities and charities are re-examining some of the fundamental concepts of engineering education: including cherished notions of what a discipline consists of, what a university looks like, and what an engineer does. A panel of engineering education stakeholders will offer insights from their own experiences, and debate the risks and rewards of the upcoming revolution in engineering education.

Dean KamenEducation is not about filling a pail, it is about lighting a fire. As we look to create the next generation of science and technology leaders, we need to focus on how to inspire kids. We need to encourage students to look at big problems and imagine equally big solutions.

Inevitably, when people discuss the shortage of engineers, they focus on the need for new books, or new curriculum, or new teachers. But in doing so, they ignore underlying cultural problems that need to be addressed.

Science, technology, problem solving, and inventing is actually more accessible and more fun than any sport or anything in Hollywood that seems to have disproportionately captured student’s attention. But kids aspire to emulate their idols, and when LeBron James and Justin Bieber dominate pop culture and social media, student’s goals reflect their frame of reference.

This is why I started FIRST – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, a program that encourages students to pursue STEM careers through robotics competitions, with the help of mentors and leaders in STEM fields. And FIRST works. This year FIRST will serve more than 300,000 young people, in more than 60 countries around the globe. Studies have shown that FIRST alumni are highly motivated to pursue careers in science and engineering.

If we are to meet our global challenges and inspire a new generation of engineers and entrepreneurs, we must first capture the minds and imaginations of young scientists and innovators.

by Dean Kamen – GGCS education session panellist

Founder of FIRST

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