ASET photo

ASET photo

Local students take part in camps to spur interest in engineering technology careers

Earlier this month, students from the Lacombe Outreach School took part in the first-ever ASET (Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta) STEM day camp at Red Deer Polytechnic.

The whole goal is to spur interest within young people to check out STEM-oriented careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), organizers say.

Another camp ran May 10 which included three students from Lacombe Composite and 10 from Rimbey Junior Senior High School.

Organizers say it’s high time to spark further interest in these lines of work as studies show a Canada-wide shortage in STEM skills, making engineering technology in particular a profession that is high in demand.

“Given the economic realities outlined in the C.D. Howe Institute and Statistics Canada reports, there are compelling reasons for ASET to broaden its junior high and high school outreach and give youth practical exposure to careers in engineering technology,” said ASET CEO Barry Cavanaugh. “I think it’s a significant issue.

“We first started to become aware of it by virtue of the fact that we were seeing a lot more companies looking for technologists and finding that they had to try and catch them in school or talk to them as they were coming into school,” he explained.

“We had this confirmed in our talks with the polytechnics in the province, too. They’ve seen it,” he said.

“So the Camp Series opens a window to a whole new world of post-secondary possibilities, and encourages youth to develop valuable skills that will be in demand for years to come.”

Meanwhile, the camps proved a hit, he said.

“According to the feedback, the students who took part in both camps were thrilled – they were really into it. I think it’s designed in such a way that it’s going to appeal to the curious and to those with an interest in these things,” he added.

“(Organizers) were able to present them with a lot of information but in a meaningful way. They taught them about what these parts were, how to assemble them, how they fit together, and why they work,” he said.

Students were really engaged in the process from the start, he said. “And then for them to see it all work is so cool. You can see these interests and these natural inclinations in kids at a very young age,” he said.

“So finding out about what route you can go to develop those interests is important – and so we decided that we had to get in there and show students in junior high and high school what they can do with this, and that this is an opportunity!

“We have to do more of these, and are hoping to do them all over the province,” he said.

During their day at RDP, the students also learned how to complete a project associated with two engineering technology occupations: electrical engineering technologist and mechanical engineering technologist.

And they had a blast doing this – they built an unassembled remote control car and then got the chance to race it.

Breaking things down further, the students also took part in workshops showing them firsthand what it’s like to work as an electrical engineering technologist and mechanical engineering technologist.

The electrical engineering technology workshop taught students to identify components with a specific function and put together a system using these parts.

The second workshop, mechanical engineering technology, guided them in the assembly of the mechanical components of the car.

In between workshops, the students learned about the differences between engineering technology and engineering professions and the various disciplines and occupations within engineering technology.