The PenPal Engineer approach to the EIR program was inspired by a current EIR whose work took him away for a couple of months during the school year. Rather than let the program lapse, the EIR wrote regular updates to the students via their teacher about where he was and what he was doing specifically related to his job as an engineer. The students loved it, and many of them wrote back via their teacher regularly.
The Pen Pal Engineer program, like the EIR core program, matches an engineer with a school for the full school year. Engineers go for an initial visit in order to introduce themselves and the engineering profession. They spend the rest of the school year communicating with students, via the teacher, through email, mail, or other electronic communication devices such as Skype, offering advice and ideas as well as insight into their daily lives as engineers. They can tell the students about the exciting bits of their job, throw in some interesting science facts to spice up the curriculum, or pose questions or challenges for students to figure out. Pen Pal Engineers may also brainstorm with teacher about any neat ideas they have for activities in the classroom. If their schedule permits, they can arrange additional school visits with the teacher.
The relationship culminates in a one-time visit near the end of the year for an event such as a career day or half-day science fair.
Thinking of signing up for the PenPal Engineer Program?
Time Commitment for volunteer engineers:
- Attend day-long (10 AM-4 PM on a weekend) orientation workshop in late September or early October (first year only for new volunteers).
- Two classroom visits (1-2 hours in-class time and 1-5 hours prep time per visit), one at the beginning of the school year and one at the end.
- Read and write an email at least once every 2-3 weeks, if possible visit the classroom once or twice over the school year.
- Full school year (September to June) commitment is required.
Time Commitment for volunteer primary contact teachers:
- Attend day-long (10 a.m.-4 p.m. on a weekend) orientation workshop in late September or early October (first year only for new volunteers).
- 1-2 hours planning time with engineer per visit.
- Every 2-3 weeks reading email, sharing email with students, collecting and sending student responses to engineer.