Middle or high school students interested in the possibility of a career in transportation, engineering, construction, or other fields have access to many different organizations that will help them get started down the right path as early a middle or high school. These groups can connect students with professional mentors, provide scholarship opportunities, and give students the chance to explore their favorite subjects alongside peers with whom they share common interests and enthusiasm for subjects like engineering, math, and science.
The ASCE Civil Engineering Club is an example of one such program. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is one of the largest professional membership organizations for civil engineers, with over 140,000 members worldwide. Most top civil engineering professionals are members of ASCE. The organization recently began offering the Civil Engineering Club for students in grades 9-12 as part of its pre-college outreach initiative. ASCE Civil Engineering Clubs connect groups of students with professional engineers and school faculty mentors from the local community, where they interact with other students in projects that will further their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects and careers.
“This club,” Payne said, “in addition to providing a career pathway for students, demonstrates, because we’re an engineering society, a member society, that there is a supportive professional society that these students could become a part of should they choose this profession, from the time they go to college, literally until they retire, and beyond.”
Over the course of a school year, students in the Civil Engineering Club study engineering-based learning modules and work on challenging projects that help them delve into what it’s really like to be a professional engineer. Students in Brooklyn, New York, for example, have been studying bridge engineering and construction, and are building and load-testing a 12-foot high cable stay bridge made of materials like PVC pipe and Christmas tree stands.
“We think that students in high school are certainly very interested in what professionals are doing, and that students are really interested in finding out what it’s like to be a student of engineering,” Payne said. “We want to show them the pathway ? through hands-on activities or site visits, those types of things that I think end up generating natural conversation, and really creating an opportunity for students.”
The Civil Engineering Club recently completed its first year, and received an enthusiastic response from students, mentors, and teachers alike.
“Teachers are very busy people. They’re being asked to do an awful lot,” Payne said. “So it’s not always easy to find time in a teacher’s day or in a classroom to be able to do these hands-on activities. And so really one of the best ways for engineers to share these ideas with students is to go into the [afterschool] education space.”
You can visit the ASCE Civil Engineering club website by clicking here to see whether there is a Civil Engineering Club chapter in your community. If not, Payne said, ASCE offers resources for students, teachers, or professionals who are interested in organizing a club chapter. The first step is to contact the ASCE’s Pre-College Outreach program office. Detailed information on the entire process of starting your own Civil Engineering Club can be found by clicking here.
“I would encourage any student if they were interested to talk to a faculty adviser and see if they could explore the opportunity of doing something like this,” Payne said. "And just have fun with it. Really in the end, that’s what it’s all about. Learning, exploring. And even if you never become a civil engineer, you will have a greater sense of technological literacy that you can carry with you into your adult life, and a better understanding of how the world really works.”