Connections Engineering Outreach brings STEM to Kingston

Coordinator Scott Compeau talks networks, new technology, and STEM community

Scott Compeau is the coordinator of Engineering Outreach. 
Credit: 
Supplied by Scott Compeau

On Feb. 23, Connections Engineering Outreach will put on their second Educational Technology Conference in the newly renovated Mitchell Hall.

The conference aims to build a collaborative partnership between the Queen’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and the wider Kingston educational community, particularly those involved in education for students in Kindergarten to Grade 12. It’s free to attend, and made possible by a grant from Actua, Canada’s largest STEM Outreach Organization.

Expected attendance is around 50 educators, all from local school boards, who will get to experience, learn about and try new STEM technology provided. The goal is to present the technology to educators in the hopes of future classroom and educational application.

One of these new technologies includes a mobile classroom that travels to schools in the Greater Kingston Area to integrate STEM, and particularly engineering, into pre-existing curricula. It has been operating for two years now.

In an interview with The Journal, Scott Compeau, the Engineering Outreach Coordinator for Connections, said there’s been a positive response to the mobile classroom, as well as a “huge uptake in interest in STEM from the kindergarten to Grade 8 demographic.”

Compeau sees all initiatives put on by Connections as part of a wider goal to further integrate STEM into classrooms and all learning spaces, including, but not limited to, the home and public spaces in and around Kingston.

Conference highlights include an “opportunity to bring together like-minded people” and “to continue building the collaborative teaching and learning community of Kingston,” Compeau said.

The conference will also feature new engineering and STEM technology, including Alternate Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), 3D printing, and Edison Bots.

Compeau told The Journal the most exciting of these technologies are AR/VR, due to the impacts they can have on accessibility in the classroom, and 3D printing, because of the diversity of its practical applications both in education and the real world, particularly in the medical field.

Another goal of the conference is to demystify engineering and applied science for new students.

Compeau believes linking engineering to skills such as problem-solving and creativity will increase engagement in the student population, especially among underrepresented students such as female learners and those not identified as classically good at math or science 

“Increasing the diversity of the STEM field is one of the major challenges of the next 10 years. This can be done by educating students in new and innovative ways,” Compeau said.

His longer-term goal is to “provide opportunities for students and educators to learn more about educational tech and engineering to supplement current curricula,” and to connect people in the field of educational STEM around Kingston.

As well as being integrated with the wider Kingston community, Connections Engineering Outreach is working to have more Queen’s Engineering students volunteer with their initiatives.

Compeau sees many benefits in involving undergraduate students, including their “passion, interest and positive energy” surrounding STEM, connection to technology, and younger age. He believes they can push forward Connections’ message in a unique and relatable way to students.

Compeau and the rest of the Connections Engineering Outreach team plan for the February Educational Technology Conference to be a jumping-off point for further work in the field of educational STEM.

The conference will facilitate discussion and provide educators with opportunities to learn about and try technology, as well to create contact in the educational STEM world. The hope is that further educated teachers will trickle down to their students, and inspire them to pursue STEM in new, engaging ways.

“It’s difficult to provide exposure to every piece of STEM to every student in every classroom,” Compeau said, but with “new ways thinking and doing, you never know when one opportunity could spark the connection that links something a student is passionate about to STEM.”

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