Engineering Activity Boxes

The Cause

DiscoverE was founded in 1993 by students at the University of Alberta to increase diversity and inclusion in engineering and science through high-impact, fun and exciting in-person programming. Over the past 27 years, we have offered clubs, special events, classroom workshops and summer camps, and we have been able to reach over 500 000 young Canadians. Our goal today remains the same, however, COVID-19 however drastically changed the way that we operate since our in-person outreach programming was suspended for the first time since our founding.

As we were not able to provide in-person programming, we pivoted and developed Engineering Activity Boxes featuring challenges and concepts for youth to learn and practice at their kitchen table. We had always wanted to create an at-home version of our programs and the COVID-19 pandemic offered a perfect opportunity to do so. At a time when families were isolating, limiting their contact with others, and trying to find safe activities to keep their children busy, the activity boxes offered us an opportunity to bring our programming into homes. Our goal was to have activity boxes that featured a diverse group of engineering mentors, tied in traditional ways of knowing with Indigenous connections, and presented exciting challenges and concepts that kids can learn and practice at home. We achieved this goal and were able to develop 5 boxes over the past year, reaching almost 3000 youth across the country.

Our work on the activity boxes is not done though. Based on feedback received on our first run of boxes, we are hoping to offer an option that's more appropriate for the K-6 classroom setting. These new "Classroom Kits" will come with a full set of materials for 30-40 students and will focus on free-design activities, complete with straightforward lesson plans for teachers and facilitators. Our planned topics for our first run of boxes is Engineering in Space, Robotics, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. We hope that these classroom kits present greater flexibility, accessibility, and affordability for our engineering activities, especially in communities that we are not able to visit regularly, and will bring kids one step closer to seeing their future in STEM.

Through the support of the Field Law Community Fund Program, we are hoping to partially fund the development of these new classroom kits, as well as pilot a number of these kits in elementary schools in Yellowknife, NWT.

Who Will it Benefit?

During a typical year, DiscoverE delivers high-impact classroom workshops, unique clubs and events, and engaging summer camps to over 26,000 youth, reaching over 70 communities across Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories. COVID-19 changed the way we needed to conduct STEM outreach, and we found that families were burnt out from the challenges associated with online schooling. In addition, many of the youth in communities that we regularly work with do not have reliable access to a computer or the internet and were hungry for activities that could be completed offline.

Our Engineering Activity Boxes served as a meaningful learning experience that introduces youth to engineering concepts through age-appropriate activities grounded in the provincial curriculum. Not only will our new "classroom kits" serve as a way of staying in touch with youth that we would normally see once or twice a year through classroom visits or at summer camps, but they are also a way of reaching a completely new audience outside of our current regional focus.

The Field Law Community Fund Program will allow us to develop, produce, and deliver engineering activity classroom kits to a number of elementary schools within Yellowknife, directly benefiting students in those classrooms by creating opportunities for them to take their learning further and explore a future in engineering and technology.