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Queen’s Engineering recognized for Indigenous outreach

The Queen’s Engineering Outreach office has received a national award for their efforts to engage with Indigenous youth.

A program which has brought class and community workshops, family events, clubs, and camp opportunities to tens of thousands of Indigenous youth across Canada is being recognized with a national education award.

The Queen’s Engineering Outreach team from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science received the Actua Experience Award – Indigenous Youth in STEM. The award was presented at Actua’s annual awards night in Ottawa Thursday evening. The Canadian charity focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education among youth.

  • Quinte Mohawk School students program code into tablets, which control these robots as part of an after-school robotics club called Codemakers. (Supplied Photo)
    Quinte Mohawk School students program code into tablets, which control these robots as part of an after-school robotics club called Codemakers. (Supplied Photo)
  • EngWAY is a week-long program operated by the Aboriginal Access to Education group, and is run on the Queen's campus. (Supplied Photo)
    EngWAY is another program operated by the Aboriginal Access to Education group, and is run on the Queen's campus. (Supplied Photo)EngWAY is a week-long program operated by the Aboriginal Access to Education group, and is run on the Queen's campus. (Supplied Photo)
  • Through EngWAY, Indigenous youth in grades 7 and 8 come to live in residence and take engineering design courses related to Indigenous community issues. (Supplied Photo)
    Through EngWAY, Indigenous youth in grades 7 and 8 come to live in residence and take engineering design courses related to Indigenous community issues. (Supplied Photo)
  • The Queen's Engineering Outreach Team accepts their Actua Award. (Photo by Martin Lipman)
    The Queen's Engineering Outreach Team accepts their Actua Award. (Photo by Martin Lipman)

Engineering Outreach runs multiple programs designed to engage Indigenous youth through Aboriginal Access to Engineering (AAE), which was the primary focus of the award. Workshops in partner First Nation grade schools involve hands-on engineering design projects that complement the Ontario science curriculum, integrate robotics in math and language classes, and explore culturally-linked science topics, as examples.

On campus, AAE has hosted Engineering Week for Aboriginal Youth (EngWAY) since 2012. During EngWAY, Indigenous youth in middle school come to stay on campus and take engineering design courses related to Indigenous community issues. AAE also provides bursaries to the Queen’s Summer Engineering Academy for Indigenous high school students, and works in partnership with the student-directed Science Quest program to bring local Indigenous youth to their day camps. In addition, AAE produces a series of comic books about engineering disciplines, featuring Queen's students and graduates, with curriculum-linked plans to help teachers across Canada use them in class.

Outreach, combined with an Indigenous student success program within the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, has resulted in a significant increase of Indigenous students enrolling in Engineering programs at Queen's - from four self-identified students in 2011 to 37 students this academic year.

“Over the past five years, we have engaged more than 20,000 Indigenous youth, and we continue to broaden our outreach to Indigenous communities right across Canada,” says Melanie Howard, Director of Outreach and Aboriginal Access with the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “Through our unique model, we partner with teachers and schools to deliver tailored content which matches with math and science curriculum, while paying attention to Indigenous contributions and cultural linkages whenever possible.”

Actua is a network with 35 post-secondary members, including Queen’s. In granting an award to the Queen’s Engineering Outreach team, the selection committee was impressed by their dedication to the key components in Actua's Indigenous STEM outreach goals. In particular, Aboriginal Access to Engineering’s focus on long-term community engagement and high-quality content tied to Indigenous worldviews and STEM delivered by Indigenous instructors and role models were particularly noted.

“Congratulations to the Queen’s Engineering Outreach team on all their efforts, which have culminated in this meaningful award,” says Kevin Deluzio, Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “This unique program, which is predominantly run by Indigenous professionals employed by Queen's, has successfully encouraged many Indigenous youth to stay in school and pursue post-secondary studies in the STEM fields. Thank you to Actua for this recognition of our important efforts to diversify the STEM field.”

To learn more about the Aboriginal Access to Engineering program, visit www.aboriginalaccess.ca