Stories Engineered to Inspire

2019 Class project tips

When using the EngineerGirl writing competition as a class or group project, there are a number of simple things you can do to improve the experience and the quality of student submissions.

  • Review the contest instructions to make sure everyone understands the rules.
  • Make sure parents/guardians are informed about the contest.
    In addition to potentially serving as a mentor for each participant, a parent or guardian must approve each child’s participation in the contest, and they will be required to license their child’s essay to be posted on EngineerGirl if it is selected as a winner
  • Discuss different types of engineers.
    Younger students or students who have no experience with engineering, often do not realize the wide variety of engineering careers that exist. Reviewing this also provides an opportunity to discuss the role engineering plays in our lives. Everything from the food we eat to the tablets we play games on was made possible in some way through the work of an engineer.
  • Discuss plagiarism and the importance of not copying a reference word-for-word.
    We do not penalize younger students for difficulty with identifying resources, but we do check submissions and have disqualified students for copying the work of others.
  • Review some past winning submissions and discuss what elements make a piece of writing more informative or persuasive.
    Not all contests involve the same type of writing and sometimes different age groups have been given different challenges. In all our past contests, engineers and/or engineering have been the primary topics. Some contests asked students to imagine themselves as engineers or to think through how engineers approach a design problem (2006, 2014, 2015, 2017).  These may be the most useful essays to review for the 2019 contest.
  • Assure the group that anyone in grades 3-12 can participate in the contest by explaining the mission of the EngineerGirl program.
    Engineers know that getting diverse perspectives on a problem will lead to better designs and better solutions. That’s why the EngineerGirl site was created – to get more girls and underrepresented minorities interested in future engineering careers. (These groups currently make up only a small percentage of professional engineers.) But in the spirit of great engineering, we welcome entries from any student regardless of gender, race, or ethnic or social background. Whether you are working with girls, boys, or both it is important for students to understand the reason for the focus on girls and diversity so that they can understand the audience for their essay and so that they do not feel marginalized in the competition.
  • Consider supporting students with fewer resources by pairing them with a mentor.
    Mentors can review the guidelines and discuss plans, read drafts, and help students connect with resources in the community. Mentors can also be a student’s champion and offer encouragement to help her persevere through the process. You may be able to draw on friends, colleagues, parent groups, or older students to find mentors.
  • Allow for peer support.
    Consider ways that youth can support one another.  While each submission needs to be the work of an individual, students interested in a similar topic can benefit from working with a group to gather research, discuss requirements and constraints, and brainstorm possible solutions. Group members can also review each other’s drafts and provide feedback. Students – particularly those in lower grades – may need guidance on working in this type of group.
  • Remind students to express appreciation for those who have supported them.
    This obviously includes individuals they have interviewed for information or advice, but also parents and mentors. Offer guidance on how to write a meaningful thank you note; this will be helpful in their academic and career pathway.
  • Debrief students after the contest submissions have been made.
    Students who participate in the contest will benefit from a discussion that includes self-reflection on their work, what they learned, what they are proud of, and what they could improve upon.

Special suggestions for the 2019 competition:

The creative fiction format for this year's contest provides some unique challenges and opportunities for introducing engineering to your students.  Here are some suggestions to help with that.

We are looking for stories that convey how the engineering design process can be used to solve different kinds of problems. We want to read stories that show how the habits of mind and attitudes common among engineers can empower people to deal with new, unusual, and even challenging situations.  To help you think about and explain this to your students, we have developed a rubric that you can use in planning or evaluating writing assignments. This rubric may not be used in the actual scoring of the contest submissions, but will be provided to our judges to help them develop a sense of what a winning story could include.

For more information about Engineering Habits of Mind and Essential Skills, you may want to explore the LinkEngineering website.

Additional Resources:

Here are some additional resources on things to consider when presenting STEM competitions to students in general, and girls in particular.

A Grand Challenge: Reimagining Competitions for the Broader Benefit
Competitions can ignite passions and turn kids on to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), but the question remains whether competitions are the best way to get youth involved in STEM activities.

Top 10 Ways to Increase Girls Participation in Computing Competitions
The relatively simple steps listed below can go a long way toward increasing girls’ participation in computing competitions. Taking these steps also improves these competitions for all students.