Engineering Ambassadors program spreading to other universities

April 04, 2011

Penn State hosted student and faculty representatives from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Worchester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and the University of Connecticut (UConn) this past weekend for a United Technologies Corporation (UTC) Engineering Ambassador Workshop at the Nittany Lion Inn.

The workshop addressed needed communication and leadership skills for the engineering ambassadors to be used in high school outreach visits. The goal was to lead participating students from RPI, WPI and UConn in creating their own unique presentations for use in their developing UTC Engineering Ambassador Programs.

Penn State ambassadors helped to mentor the visiting students in a series of workshop sessions. According to Al Brockett of Pratt & Whitney, who was instrumental in garnering UTC's support for the ambassador program, the three visiting schools were "extremely impressed with the effort exerted by the students during the workshop."

The mission of the Engineering Ambassadors program is to show high school students the lesser-known truths of engineering?namely, that it’s not all about working on cars or building bridges. Ambassadors aim to incite high school students’ interest in engineering as a possible college major and career path.

"Our goal is to get others to see the field of engineering like we do, to get others to be excited about that vision," said Engineering Ambassadors faculty adviser Melissa Marshall, also a lecturer in communication arts and sciences at Penn State.

The Engineering Ambassadors program began at Penn State in May 2009 as an outreach program that visited high schools around Pennsylvania to give short presentations on engineering topics.  The goals of these presentations were to reinforce the principles high school students were already learning in their classrooms and to encourage their interest in engineering careers.

As the Penn State program expanded?to 12 students in the fall of 2010, then to the 39 students currently involved?its mission expanded as well. In addition to high school outreach visits, ambassadors now also speak at prospective student events and accepted student programs within the College of Engineering.

Support secured from UTC last year has offered the program new opportunities for expansion, including the partnership with the three other schools attending last weekend's workshop. Penn State will lead these schools in developing similar programs by imparting best practices as well as presentation skills in content design and organization.

  • As part of the Engineering Ambassadors workshop this past weekend, participants were tasked with assembling tents blindfolded, guided by the voice of a teammate. The activity was designed as a team-building exercise for workshop participants.

    IMAGE: Victoria Fryer

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Last Updated April 05, 2011