A new project with a local elementary school will allow engineering students at North Platte Community College to hone their interaction and communication skills before entering the workforce.
Four students in Jared Daily’s “Interpersonal Skills for Engineering” class are participating in the project. They are: Colleen Griffin and Ethan Clemons, of North Platte, Jayce Bischoff, of Cozad and Grace Morrow, of Longmont, Colo.
“Beginning this month, through the end of the semester, we will go to Osgood Elementary twice a week for about an hour each time,” said Morrow. “Depending on how our schedules work out, we will be going either individually or in pairs. We will work alongside teachers to help students in a variety of classes learn and understand the lessons they are given.”
It won’t be as easy as it may sound.
“I’ve tutored junior high-level students before, but this will be a different type of challenge,” Clemons said. “Because of the age gap, we will have to be patient and understanding about the principles we are helping to teach. It’s applicable to what we will be doing in the real world because being able to simplify information is a key factor in engineering.”
Morrow agreed, saying engineers work with non-engineers a lot. In those situations, information must be presented in a clear, concise and understandable manner.
“Not only will we be developing our communication skills, but we will also be learning how to work with others as part of a team,” said Griffin. “It’s another side of engineering that people don’t always think about, but having those people skills is just as important as the technical knowledge.”
Bischoff is looking forward to representing NPCC’s Engineering program and introducing a new generation to fields in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
“I think this experience will be a good way to give the elementary students some insight about what college is and what kind of STEM-related careers are out there,” said Bischoff.
All the college students agreed that meeting someone excited about STEM would have been beneficial to them in elementary school.
“I feel like we had a lot of representatives from education, business and the arts visit our school, but not science and math,” Morrow said. “That’s important because there are a lot of good-paying jobs out there in those areas.”
Daily said it’s the first time the Interpersonal Skills for Engineering class has been offered at MPCC. It’s based off a course developed at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He said there are several other universities with similar offerings.
“Due to an increased use of cell phones and social media, students around the country are struggling to communicate in face-to-face situations,” Daily said. “We’re trying to remedy that by getting those interpersonal skills built up at an early age.”
He has tried to remain relatively hands-off with the project, so the students could gain as much experience as possible. They were in charge of contacting the school, which was chosen because of its proximity the college. It’s right across the road.
Once the project was approved by Osgood, the students had to go through background checks, set up an interview with the principal, schedule visits and keep logbooks of their activities.
“The only UNL requirement is that the project has to be something to improve the community, and it has to be volunteer – not a job the students get paid for,” Daily said. “I kept that same stipulation.”
The MPCC class will transfer to UNL and will count as a communications credit both in Lincoln and at Mid-Plains.