Inspire the next generation of Indigenous engineers

The Queen’s Indigenous Futures in Engineering program received $600,000 to expand its reach from K-12.

Nicole General, Indigenous STEM Outreach Coordinator at InEng, works with a young student.

Inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers is the motivation behind the latest funding announcement from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). More than $10 million has been awarded through the PromoScience and Science Communication Skills grants to organizations that provide young people with access to innovative STEM programs and improve communication and public understanding of science. Queen’s Indigenous Futures in Engineering (InEng) was one such program, receiving its most successful funding application to date, for just under $600,000.

Established in 2011, InEng (formerly Indigenous Access to Engineering) is based in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and led by Indigenous education professionals with expertise in STEM education. The initiative is committed to dramatically increasing the number of Indigenous engineers in Canada through Queen’s student supports and K-12 outreach programs. By providing Indigenous youth from K-12 the opportunity to engage with Indigenous engineers and engineering students, the program aims to encourage youth to see themselves in the profession and eventually pursue STEM education. The program has also worked with over 100 Indigenous engineering students at Queen’s since its inception, offering a wide range of resources and support from tutoring to dedicated study spaces to national and international networking opportunities.

“We must inspire and encourage the young people of today if we want to make great discoveries and solve the mysteries of tomorrow,” says the Honorable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry , who made the federal funding announcement. “Through this investment through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, our government is supporting those who ignite a spark across generations and encourage Canadians to help build a healthier, cleaner and more sustainable future. for everyone.

Science Communication Skills Grant
Queen’s researchers Diane Orihel (biology) and Sarah Yakimowski (biology) were the winners of NSERC’s new pilot program focused on supporting science literacy, countering scientific misinformation and promoting a role for science in evidence-based decision making. Their project, Development of Inclusive Science Communication Training through an Anti-Racist Lens, received $20,000 to develop an intensive training workshop for graduate students and a set of online resources. They aim to make their project a model of science communication that can be used across Canada.

With support from the PromoScience grant, InEng will offer its program in elementary schools, Foundations for Indigenous Futures in Engineering, as part of its goal to expand the reach of Indigenous STEM. InEng maintains partnerships with several First Nations communities and their leaders in education, and works with First Nations schools to deliver their community outreach programs. They aim to expand outreach and training opportunities directly to teachers of Indigenous students by partnering with more schools and offering online programming. InEng’s goal is to dramatically increase educators’ confidence and proficiency in teaching STEM through instructional training, lesson design and lesson modeling to encourage teachers to integrate more hands-on STEM learning in their regular teaching schedules.

“We are very excited about expanding our outreach program with this influx of support from NSERC’s PromoScience program,” said Melanie Howard, Director, Indigenous Futures in Engineering. “With the return to in-person programming enabled by this stage of the pandemic, we are actively recruiting three additional Indigenous education professionals to join our team for the 2022-23 school year later this fall.

InEng’s foundations initiative also aims to inspire indigenous students at a young age. By encouraging curiosity and exploration of STEM subjects early in their education, InEng aims to develop a pathway for Indigenous students that inspires them to eventually pursue a career in STEM. Some of their in-person programs include designing in-class workshops that align with Ontario’s math and science curricula with a particular focus on the cultural relevance of STEM subjects for students and the integration of the local context and culture. For example, InEng staff have created technical design projects centered around key activities of Haudenosaunee communities’ harvest ceremonies, math workshops that incorporate Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee wampum teachings from southern Ontario, and robotics that incorporate powwow dance traditions.

Over the past decade, InEng has engaged with over 70,000 youth and community members through activities such as drop-in science events, week-long science camps, and opportunities professional training for teachers. With their goals of expanding reach, InEng will be structured to support and nurture Indigenous youth on their journey through STEM education by offering targeted initiatives and programs that meet their needs as they progress through kindergarten to grade 12 in college and eventually into their careers.

For more information on Queen’s Indigenous Futures in Engineering, visit the InEng website.