The Queen’s Engineering youth outreach initiative, Connections, provides experiential opportunities for elementary and secondary students in the Kingston area to further their interests in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. The goal is to help them explore their passions in all fields, STEM and beyond, to identify ways they can contribute to solve the grand challenges of tomorrow.

“Engineers design solutions to meet society’s needs,” says Kevin Deluzio, Dean at the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “We need our next generation to understand what an engineering career can be and how they can contribute to making the world a better place. It can be robotics. It can be health related. It can be combatting climate change.”

Classroom-based programs are aligned with the Ontario Ministry of Education curriculum guidelines and feature the Tech ‘n Tinker Trailer, a 24-foot mobile classroom filled with activities that introduce students and their teachers to coding, robotics, and the engineering design process.

“We have a variety of programs, all of which serve a different capacity and awareness of science and technology,” says Scott Compeau, Manager of Connections Engineering Outreach. “They provide engaging opportunities for students and teachers to really explore and understand the applications of engineering in the real world.” In addition to classroom sessions in local schools and area library workshops, the team also implements programs uniquely for girls and Black youth.

Connections is also dedicated to supporting the work of the Faculty of Education,and provides their pre-service teacher candidates with training to assist in preparation for STEM-oriented teaching in their future careers. Instructor Chris Carlton says that the training provides teacher candidates a greater knowledge base for classroom teaching. “The demands on a teacher are huge,” he says. “The team at Connections shows us the many different ways that we can teach and stay on top of the curriculum.”

The Connections team also hosts an on-campus program outside the traditional school year, called Queen’s Summer Engineering Academy (QSEA). QSEA runs weekly throughout July and August, with commuter and residential options. Each QSEA program has been developed to provide meaningful STEM experiences while also introducing young and potential future Queen’s students to university campus life.

“It’s vital that we increase the level of knowledge of STEM fields in our broader society,” says Deluzio, “and especially in our school systems. We want to inspire the young girl or boy looking to change the world, who wants to make the world a better place.”