Logging on to a Zoom session isn’t ordinarily a life-changing experience, but for a sixth grader talking to the first mechanical engineer she’s ever encountered, it just might be.
“It made me more excited than ever to learn about engineering, because now I’m planning to be an engineer when I grow up,” said one Texas sixth grade student.
“The most rewarding part for me is the students’ questions,” says Kalan Guiley, a mechanical engineer at Boeing and the ASME volunteer who currently serves as senior vice president for Public Affairs & Outreach. “Every now and then I get a question that surprises me and gives me an opportunity—just for a moment—to see the world through their eyes. Those moments make me feel the future is in good hands!”
Guiley is talking about DropMEin!, part of ASME’s INSPIRE STEM Readiness program for K-12 schools where working engineers drop into classrooms, virtually, to explain how engineers can be “problem-solvers for good.”
“Telling young students about engineering, and my job in particular, and seeing their reactions is always fun,” Guiley continues. “And, in a larger sense, I’m proud of the impact of science and engineering on the arc of human history, and I enjoy getting to share that and inviting the students to be a part of the next chapter.”
Launched in 2015, ASME’s INSPIRE program content is currently available to over 150,000 students across the United States. The program invites exploration of basic engineering concepts and opens a window into the world of engineering by introducing young people to real-world STEM career paths and their positive impact on the world.
DropMEIn! taps ASME’s extensive network of professional engineers who are paired with participating schools. Under normal circumstances the ASME INSPIRE program brings engineers into classrooms in their local communities. However, in the midst of the pandemic, ASME volunteer engineers are relying on video links to schools anywhere in the country.
In 2020, ASME teamed with Discovery Education as its INSPIRE implementation partner, potentially extending its reach to up to one million K-12 students annually. ASME staff professionals work collaboratively with the Discovery Education team to develop engineering content and digital experiences designed to illuminate the role of engineers and engineering as global problem-solvers. Interestingly, engineering is the only STEM discipline not typically included in schools’ core curriculum, so INSPIRE fills a critical gap in students’ learning.
ASME INSPIRE is funded in large part through charitable donations to the ASME Foundation, the philanthropic arm of ASME. Among the roster of corporate, foundation, and individual donors are companies like Dril-Quip, Inc., a leading manufacturer of drilling and production equipment for the energy industry. Dril-Quip’s engagement with INSPIRE extends beyond financial support and includes employee participation in DropMEIn!.
“Being involved and giving back to our local community is very humbling and rewarding to Dril-Quip,” says Dr. Jim Kaculi, vice president of engineering for Dril-Quip, Inc. “Having our engineers so engaged with students in an interactive classroom setting and supporting STEM efforts will help K-12 student development of young, innovative, and inspiring minds. Our goal is to ensure support for the next generation of engineers needed to power our world in the future.”
Dr. Kaculi also serves on the executive committee of the ASME Petroleum Division, which is a generous supporter of ASME INSPIRE. One of the reasons that the Petroleum Division believes so strongly in INSPIRE is the program’s focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. A key underpinning of INSPIRE—and all of ASME’s philanthropic initiatives—is to make the engineering community more welcoming to those who have long been underrepresented in the profession. Half of the students participating in INSPIRE are girls, and more than two-thirds of the schools are designated as Title 1. (Title 1 schools are those where low-income families make up at least 40 percent of enrollment.)
The DropMEIn! program is just one of the ways the ASME Foundation is empowering next generation engineers. To learn more about ASME’s impactful philanthropic initiatives, and to view videos about INSPIRE and other Foundation-supported programs, visit www.asmefoundation.org.