Rapidly evolving technology and emerging global issues are changing what young students today need to learn for their future. Queen’s Connections has developed classroom and community-based programs that inspire and engage young people while showing how classroom theory connects with practical applications.

“There can sometimes be a disconnect between what kids are learning in the classroom in science and math, and what’s happening in the real world,” says Desuree DeGagne, Connections Outreach Coordinator. “We help to bridge those two elements, to provide them with an authentic and engaging experience that helps them understand what engineering is and how it can be part of their future.”

Outreach teams work closely with teachers to bring projects to the school that align with the Ontario Ministry of Education curriculum, and then meet directly with students in the classroom or in the travelling Tech ‘n Tinker Trailer, a 24-foot mobile unit filled with equipment for hands-on group experiments.

Melody Venditti is a teacher at Welborne Avenue Public School in Kingston and has seen firsthand the value in the outreach team’s engagement with both students and teachers.

“The curriculum has changed a lot over the past number of years, and it’s hard to keep on top of it all,” she says. “It’s so wonderful to have the outreach team come in and work with the students. At the same time, it also allows us to learn. In a way, it’s also professional development for us.”

At the Kingston Frontenac Public Library, elementary level students regularly gather to work in groups where they build and program LEGO robots to maneuver around a course, guided by Queen’s Engineering students who volunteer for the Connections team. This collaborative program provides for STEM learning outside the classroom, along with communication and teambuilding skills.

Caylee Ortiz is a programming assistant with the Kingston Library. “We love providing fun STEM activities outside of school,” she says. “The library offers a fun, playful environment where students can explore, supported by the fantastic team of Queen’s students from Connections.”

The programs offer more than just learning about robots.

“They are using critical thinking skills, and they have to work together to accomplish these tasks,” says Outreach Intern and Computer Engineering student David Chase. “They learn how to fix things that break, and they learn how to get through the frustration and have fun.”

For grade five student Riley Oban, the workshops have reinforced how important teamwork is to success. “You have to work together in a team because if you don’t, you’ll fail,” he says. “Also, communication is key.  Sharing and combining your ideas is how we can solve problems.”