The Manufacturing and Engineering Externship Program (MEEP) is back! Educators should apply now to join a cohort experience running summer through fall of 2021. MEEP seeks to address the growing STEM skills gap in the manufacturing and engineering sectors by engaging Ohio teachers in paid summer externships with local companies in STEM industries. This program is funded by a grant from the Office of Naval Research.
Looking for the inside scoop on the program? Before joining the staff of the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network, Kristin McQueen taught at L&N STEM Academy. She completed MEEP in 2019 and reflected on the program in a brief interview below.
Through MEEP, you’ll see STEM concepts in action. Then, with professional development, you’ll develop a new project-based learning experience to take back to your classroom.
Teachers who complete the program’s requirements will receive a $2,500 stipend.
Program Timeline (2021)
Eligibility: The applicant must be an Ohio K-12 teacher. Teachers can apply individually or in teams of two from their school. Each applicant should submit his or her application.
Questions about this application or process? Email Zac Ames at Battelle at email@example.com.
To help answer some of the initial questions you may have, we have asked former MEEP participant and current Tennessee STEM Innovation Network STEM Relationship Manager Kristin McQueen about her experience with MEEP.
Explain your history with the MEEP program?
As a previous educator, I was always looking for ways to further my STEM toolbox through professional growth. It was because of my connection with the STEM network that I came across the MEEP opportunity. I presented the idea to my colleague and we decided to apply together knowing that we would impact more students in different grand bands. In 2019, we were accepted into the program and began our journey. With PBL and manufacturing training under our belts, we strolled into A.O. Smith, a hot water manufacturer. While there, we were able to experience multiple jobs including Robotics Mechanic, Engineering Technician, Production Manager, and Quality Manager. It was eye-opening to see all the steps that went into designing and building one water heater. I was able to quickly see the design cycle working in each formation of the process and with each position I shadowed.
What were you able to bring back to your students from this program?
After leaving A.O. Smith it was clear to me that each position required STEM skills. I created my PBL around water filtration, and was able to provide first-hand knowledge to my students through my experience using pictures and interviews. One of the Quality Engineers visited our classrooms and helped our students work through the engineering design cycle while planning out their ideas for a water filtration system. Through this collaboration, students were able to build and test water filtration systems that cleaned up dirty water. It was awesome to connect A.O. Smith to this because they have their very own Water Treatment Plant on site. I was able to show them pictures and videos from my time in the water treatment plant. My students gained knowledge around manufacturing and learned how to implement valuable STEM skills into a finished product.
How did your students enjoy the new coursework?
My students were so engaged during this project and a big piece of that was knowing that I “worked” there for a few days, that some of their family members work there, and they can physically see it behind our school. It made something they see daily into a reality. Students were invested in the project and excited to see if their water was going to test clean. It was exciting to see them collaborate and communicate with one another and work to solve problems together. I remember one group had tested their sample numerous times and each time the water kept filtering dirty; I encouraged them to revisit the design cycle, and after reworking some of their systems that 3rd time hit it on the money. The water filtered clean, and they were jumping for joy and high-fiving each other. It was impactful to see the manufacturing world become a reality for them.
Now that you are organizing MEEP, what changes have you implemented to make the program better?
With going through the program to leading the implementation, my biggest focus has been to increase teacher knowledge surrounding the fundamentals of manufacturing and increase the outreach across the state. I want teachers to have a baseline understanding of the manufacturing world before they even set foot on their host site. I also have challenged myself to double the number of industries that participated in the MEEP program previously with a wide reach across the regions of Tennessee. I think that part of the impact comes from pairing teachers with an exceptional industry where teachers can truly experience the design cycle and STEM skills needed to function in the manufacturing world and have a lasting business partner to continue STEM supports throughout the school.
How have you altered to make the program more accessible during the COVID-19 transition?
MEEP is transitioning to an online platform with synchronous and asynchronous opportunities for professional learning. In the live sessions, teachers will hear from the Battelle team and a Manufacturing Panel to help prepare them for the cohort. Teachers will also complete self-paced PBL training and manufacturing fundamentals with virtual check-ins with the Battelle team.
With COVID restrictions in mind, our externship timeframe was also shortened to 1-2 days, previously 3-5, to help lighten the load on the industry side.
What advice would you give educators who might want to try this externship?
MEEP is a great opportunity for teachers to expand or gain new knowledge around building high-quality, authentic PBLs. It is also eye-opening to connect what we are teaching to real-life careers such as manufacturing and engineering. It also opens a window of opportunity to gain a new business partner that can continue to help leverage STEM initiatives pushed within your school. Make sure to keep an open mind and push yourself to think outside the box. Utilize all the supports that are put in place throughout the MEEP program. Leave your host site with multiple contacts to help support your teaching. Lastly, have fun! We do not get many chances to learn outside of the classroom, let alone be physically put to work in manufacture. Embrace the opportunity and see how it helps shape your teaching practices and expand student learning beyond the norm.