Some of you are mere babes Ö.. I remember erector sets, crystal radios, Allied Knight Kit Star Roamer, 50 in 1 electronic kits etc. The crystal radio was made with a blue M razor blade, pencil lead and a safety pin etc.
I believe there is a far bigger issue here that I have seen some brief glimpses in the comments. The standard of living in the country is going down. It is going down because our engineering jobs and others are going overseas. Not because they are any better, but instead because they are cheaper. When you examine the cost of a 4 year college engineering degree you will be hard pressed to get one for less than $50,000 to $75,000 or higher. Now put that into a student loan. They canít get out of school, pay for rent, a car, insurance etc and still afford to make payments on a student loan. We are competing with countries that provide an education to their citizens for $400.00 per year. That is FULL LIVING EXPENSES AND EDUCATION PAID. I know this for a fact because a very good friend of mine got his BS degree in India. He then came to the US and got his masters and PhD. HE is one very sharp engineer!!! But his early education cost was substantially less.
Engineers laid off over the last three years are being offered salaries of starting engineers. It took 37 years before I get screwed, it is happening now to younger engineers. They can get new ones or ones with green cards for less. Our companies are being run by accountants. They only look at the bottom line now and next week. We need to make some changes in our educational system so people can afford to get an education and get a job that pays enough to pay for it.
If you turn off your prejudices and cynicism for a minute you will realize that we are talking about three different things, one of which is irrelevant. There are two things that need to be done, we have to find a way to restore the emotional value of the long term process of engineering. This isn't a kid problem, it is a cultural problem. Business doesn't want to spend money on engineers because it doesn't impact next quarter's bottom line. R&D pays off in years, not months. But it is over the course of years that the great changes happen. When people are eager for a future that is a decade or more away, they will respect and fairly pay the people that are going to make that future happen. If this doesn't change, long term development will stop, and the US will be left behind.
The other thing we need to do is prepare kids to fill the jobs this will open. There is no point in raising competetivly skilled kids if we don't make use of them, but we can't sustain the development if we don't have them. So we MUST DO BOTH.
No age is to early to introduce engineering and technology to kids. The question is how you do it. Formal course work in it will be futile before fifth grade, or so. However, interest generating activities, such as LEGOs, technology demonstrations, and so on can reach back to kindergarten easily. And there is no reason the schools can't do this, except that the teachers don't know how.
What this thread seems to say again and again it that engineers didn't get their early inspiration from school but from other sources.
That's a good start for engineers. Engineering is a lifelong commitment to learning. You can't have engineering "downloaded" into you by a school system.
The school system can however beat it out of you.
Homework for KG is just sick.
This is just to give the parents a feeling their precocious darlings are getting a head start. If anything it is destructive.
People are naturally inquisitive. Creativity does not need to be formed, only nurtured.
Teaching kids to read or whatever when they are not yet ready for it is not at all helpful.
Kids should only be taught stuff when they are ready for it.
Nothing beats the hands-on approach! Pehlig, I love your story about building an adder out of kindergartners; that's the coolest! I think we all played with Legos, and my kids are no exception. The manufacturing tolerances on those things are something like 20 microns (don't get the cheap knock-off K'nex; the tolerances are much worse), so I've even heard of people building usable optical benches out of them. I'm looking forward to trying that myself in the not too distant future. Meanwhile, I bought an AM/FM radio kit from Ramsey Electronics for about $15 for a dual purpose: I'm doing some R&D radio work in my garage lab for Broadcom while getting my kids interested in electronics.
And you guys touched on another of my favorite activities that I'm trying to pass on to my little guys: music. Back in the 1970's when I was in elementary school, we had this ridiculous Orff music program. Sort of "music lite", no tedious notes or scales or such; basically worthless. We used to call it Barff music! But somehow some of us got past it and actually learned how to play real instruments (bass, keyboards, and guitar in my case).
These days I'm surprised at how much my guys have to do for homework. At least here in affluent Orange County, California they do. Heck, we didn't even have homework in kindergarten back then, probably not even in 1st grade. I'm not complaining, though. Maybe they will even learn some real music theory and technique when they get older.
I urge you my fellow EE's to get involved, too. We will never regret it.
Ah, a subject near and dear to my heart! My younger son is finishing up kindergarten now, and my older son is finishing up 1st grade, so this discussion is very timely. Coincidentally, their birthdays are on Maxwell's (June 13) and Kirchhof's (March 24), so I figure they were predestined to be EE's or at least physicists! But I'm not going to push them into something that doesn't suit them.
I don't know about you, but I'm not going to sit around and wait for the gov't to do something about kids' flagging interest in STEM. When my employer, Broadcom, announced that it would be giving grants to employees' local schools for STEM education, I contacted the principal of the neighborhood school where my guys go right away. It's surprising how difficult making the connection between the Broadcom Foundation and the school is!
Broadcom is also supporting Exploring Engineering, a program to encourage kids to consider engineering careers. My hand went up immediately to be a part of it. We recently had our first meeting in preparation for school visits in the Fall, and it was a total blast making and "researching" string telephones! This was just one example of activities that kids could do, and even with at least a hundred years of communications engineering experience collectively in the room, we all learned some surprising new things.
While I think teaching engineering specifically to kids might be a bit much, I seriously think critical thinking skills needs to be taught at that age. Kids need to learn how to ask questions, understand results from actions, and even learn the very basics of the scientific method. I think with a good dose of critical thinking, science, medicine, and engineering will be second nature to them Ė with their freedom to choose based on their own curiosity.
I see so many people these days, younger and older, severely lacking any sort of analytical abilities. Every time I see people endorsing ridiculous ideas like cell phones causing cancer, believing in acupuncture and preposterous medical methodologies (ever hear of homeopathy? Oh pulease!), spending billions on lose-weight-quick gimmicks, miracle gas mileage improving magnets, perpetual motion machines, etc. ad nauseam, I fear where we have come as a society.
I feel fortunate to have had a couple science teachers in junior high and high school who taught me some good reasoning skills and to not just believe everything I hear and read at face value. It takes a pretty sharp mind to sift through all the crap the University of Google spews forth, and sadly, it seems most people out there just canít cope and buy into absolute garbage.
I, for one, would love to see a generation of astute, critical thinking kids growing up firmly grounded in reality and the sciences (including, especially, engineering). I would love to turn the future over to them.
I just don't understand why US law makers going bonkers about education. We in India, though we put our kids through rigorous education driven by the society, respect the way US teaches its kids. Here if a school teaches PG material to a high school student it is respected. Nobody cares, how much a student can absorb and apply. Please study employability figures quoted by various companies, of fresh Bachelors in Engineering. And the trend in India is whatever may be your qualification/specialization you would end up in IT sector as it the place to make money.
What we need to develop in a child is curiosity to learn, critical thinking, doing what is enjoyable and making right choices in life. And making them understand that materialistic acquisitions are not the only pointers to success in life. That's it.
All of those physics and engineering using legos, board, device and battery are good and help kids to get better with hand and eye coordination
Nevertheless, if their thinking process is not keeping up with it, all of engineering and science is a trial-error-and-waste case of a rocket science. We need to tell and work our kids to develop and exercise a thinking process, a.k.a., a critical thinking. Without this in a base, all of book/experimental based learning will be crashed at the end.