Full STEM ahead: Inspiring youth to explore engineering
Mark Morscher ’89 understands that STEM lessons at a young age can impact the career choices of a student. A retired electrical and computer engineer, Mark has taken his passion for solving problems and pivoted from the corporate world to the classroom. Since September 2022, Mark has been partnering with Ohio State Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Betty Lise Anderson, using her National Science Board award-winning STEM outreach material to inspire K-12 students in the Licking County (Ohio) School Districts where he lives.
At no cost to the classroom or school district, Mark is extending the reach of Professor Anderson’s materials designed to promote public understanding of science and engineering and hoping to inspire his peers to do the same wherever they live. To date, he’s presented at 28 classroom and other events, to almost 1500 students, with more planned.
“We’re really trying at an early age to demystify engineering,” he said, “and maybe spark an interest in that so they realize how rewarding and fun the degree is and have that as a career goal.”
Going into the classroom and to community groups to inspire the next generation is also a rewarding experience for Morscher. “It's so much fun. It's just great to see these kids do something from start to finish and to see them just embrace it and realize they can build something.”
Students work on projects that are age and grade-level appropriate, like a basic a speaker, to increasingly complex circuit projects, including a flashlight, a “magic” wand, and a wireless energy transfer project that teaches basic principles of motors and wireless charging for electronic devices. These projects allow Morscher to introduce students to the engineering process, breaking complex tasks down into smaller steps so that they can continually be testing.
“As engineers, we test after each step. We don't want to complete ten steps in a row to find it doesn't work and we don’t know which step failed. But once you show [the students] how you test something, the next time you ask them to test the next step in the circuit, they just light up and know what to do.”
In addition to inspiring kids, Morscher wants to inspire other College of Engineering alumni. He hopes Buckeye engineers will see how he’s taking the STEM lessons Professor Anderson has created and choose to serve as unofficial ambassadors of Ohio State and engineering in the school districts where they live. To better showcase his efforts to potential student groups and to highlight the fun he’s having, Morscher created an Instagram account where he posts photos and information about the lessons he offers, as well as photos from some of his presentations.
Morscher's plan is to develop a comprehensive lesson package, including communication and project materials, that other alums can utilize to perform the same service in their community. “We have tens of thousands of alumni out there. I can't be the only one that has this passion, that wants to go ahead and get involved in the community in this way to pay it forward. Professor Anderson has set up this incredible program where she's done all the leg work and created the projects and the presentations. We can basically provide that and they just have to go find the audience and facilitate the project.”
If you’re curious about offering Ohio State backed STEM lessons in the school district in which you live, Morscher would be happy to connect via email to discuss his experience and what your next step should be, as well as facilitate delivery of project materials that are required. Whether you’re able to offer one classroom experience per year or ten, he believes it’s important to give back.
“I presented to a second-grade class a couple weeks ago, and I saw a student’s parent a few days later. And she said, ‘Oh my gosh, my daughter just loved that project! She came home and she made two more!’ And, I mean, it's so rewarding when you hear something like that.”
by Bruce Houtz, College of Engineering Communications | email@example.com