Engineering Challenge for the 21st Century Program

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Engineering Challenge For The 21st Century Biz Buzz Submitted by Helen Koven on 07-30-2008.  

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Under the direction of John Birch, founder and president, The Birch Group, LLC this team of educators created a stethoscope similar to the ones being tested for use to listen to abnormal bowel sounds of premature infants during the Engineering Challenge for the 21st Century hosted by Tunxis Community College this week. The device enables doctors, parents and caregivers to determine hunger and other needs of premies. (Left to Right) Donna Didsbury, Brookfield High School, Brookfield, CT; Ken Luwig, Kennedy High School, Waterbury, CT; Michael Riley, Columbus Area Career Connection, Columbus, IN; John Birch, founder and president, The Birch Group, LLC, [Farmington], CT; and Ray Milo, AIT Academy, Stamford, CT.

High school and college educators from throughout Connecticut and across the country gathered for a program entitled, ENGINEERING CHALLENGE FOR THE 21ST CENTURY, designed to train them to help students become qualified and productive engineers and technologists.

The program, hosted by Tunxis Community College is funded by The National Science Foundation Advanced Technology Education grants to the Connecticut Community Colleges College of Technology's Center for Next Generation Manufacturing and CBIA to promote student success and prepare them with employability skills.

The Engineering Challenge stresses project-based learning; teamwork; technical communication; organizational and interpersonal skills (including understanding behavior diversity using DISC profiles) and personal accountability. Educators were trained in methodologies developed and used in many CT high schools and community colleges to inspire students to select careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The use of real world applications focus on saving lives and the environment and attracts a diverse population of students to pursue career paths in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, including girls who are underrepresented in engineering and technology. They built prototypes of medical devices like ones for keeping premature babies with sleep apnea alive.

The Birch Group, LLC, a management consultant firm in New Britain, CT directs the five day hands-on workshops. John Birch, founder and president of The Birch Group, LLC and his expert team designed this program eight years ago. Birch, specializing in strategic planning and leadership development, works with industry, state government and the nonprofit sector.

Birch states, "Reaching out to educators to inspire and enrich students with skills and knowledge they learn this week will exponentially grow the mission of the Engineering Challenge for the 21st Century. We stress technical and academic excellence in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and strive to include 'key proficiencies' in professional skills such as respect, oral and written communication, accountability, leadership and people skills. The program has a wide application in our evolving world and in educating the future workforce."

The Engineering Challenge for the 21st Century utilized the expertise of Ron Adrezin, professor of Mechanical Engineering, Coast Guard Academy, Andrew Angle, physics instructor, Watkinson School; Beth Richards, department chair of technical writing, University of Hartford; Mehrdad Faezi, professor of manufacturing engineering, Manchester Community College and Karen Wosczyna-Birch, executive director of the CT College of Technology Center for Next Generation Manufacturing.