Photo © Courtesy of Engineers of Tomorrow
Before she chose engineering, Rebecca White was a kid attending a STEM daycamp in her hometown of Kingston, Ontario. Now, the mom of three is inspiring thousands of future engineers. “I’m living proof that STEM outreach programs work,” she explains, “but not everyone has access to them.”
That’s part of the reason White, a chemical engineering grad with a decade of experience in pharmaceutical and food manufacturing, became CEO of the non-profit organization Engineers of Tomorrow (EoT): to provide every Canadian kid with positive engineering experiences.
For her classmate Erica Lee Garcia, who founded EoT, the choice to become an engineer was a “happy accident.” She recounts of her 17-year-old self, “I hoped engineering was a way to use my math and science skills to help people, but I wasn’t sure.”
Lee Garcia credits math intimidation, along with a lack of awareness around engineering, for an abundance of missing talent from the profession. “Engineers aren’t as visible as doctors or lawyers—we don’t have our own show! I want to make sure all kids ‘get the memo’ about engineering. It was a great choice for me and I almost didn’t do it.”
EoT’s work is powered by a few thousand volunteers who tell their own engineering stories, after being coached in EoT’s philosophy. White explains, “We tell them, start with your WHY. What made you choose engineering? Lead with your emotions, and connect to your audience on a human level. That approach is strategic and it matters.”
To White and Lee Garcia, who met as undergrads instructing at Queen’s University’s Science Quest camp, the work goes beyond delivering fun workshops. They insist that the outreach process—the way EoT does it—can be transformative for the kids and the volunteers alike.
“Our volunteers are truly top-notch. They take time out of their busy lives, mostly they do it for the kids. But time and again, we see a cool thing happen: they reconnect with their purpose and get pumped about how cool engineering is. You could say that fall back in love again.”
“It doesn’t stop there,” Lee Garcia enthuses, “They take their excitement back to their workplace, which in turn fuels higher motivation, creativity, and connection to the purpose of their company.
EoT volunteers are as diverse as engineering itself, and consistently 30-40% female: employed by internet startups, engineering firms, manufacturing companies, banks, and robotics firms.
EoT has created several successful corporate partnerships, receiving glowing reviews: “Energized is the word we hear over and over again,” Lee Garcia avers.
“By volunteering [with EoT], I am part of a solution and ensuring that others have more skills and more confidence to pursue their contribution too,” says EoT volunteer Jonique Gardien.
To date, EoT has delivered 359,000+ in-class engineering experiences, and in 2021 they’re reaching K-12 students across Canada.
“Engineering is about more than crunching numbers and it’s often poorly understood due to stereotypes.” White concludes, “We’re all about breaking that down—one story at a time.”
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Engineers of Tomorrow is a nationally incorporated not-for-profit. Established in 2014, our mission is to tell better stories about engineering today, to have an impact on the engineers of tomorrow.