‘Engineering-in-a-Box’ is an initiative of STEAM Education Ltd that aims to inspire children to love engineering, with the help of real engineers!

STEAM Education matches engineers with primary school teachers for a fun, hands-on, 10-week engineering programme for upper primary school kids! The programme aims to inspire girls and boys to love engineering and open their minds to the wide variety of careers available in engineering sectors. This includes (but is not limited to) construction, civil and structural engineering, and other building related engineering fields.

STEAM work with companies from all sectors of engineering but they have very strong engagement with construction and building services engineering companies in Cork, Dublin, Kildare, Limerick, and beyond. Companies including Sisk, BAM, ARUP, John Paul Construction, Jones, MEP, Dornan, Stewart, Collen, Jacobs, and Sirus engineering all engage with STEAM and with primary schools in their locality to inspire young people. Engineers from all these companies are co-teaching the Engineering-in-a-Box programme in primary school classrooms week after week! STEAM are also supported by the Naughton Foundation, and City and County Councils, to connect engineering postgraduates with primary schools to deliver the programme. STEAM Education aim to continually build on the success of the programme, thus growing the STEAM community while increasing engagement and interaction between industry and education. In this STEAM support the kids, the teachers, and schools, and help to grow the pipeline of engineering graduates required to nurture, sustain and innovate the sector.

Every company STEAM Education work with is aware that Ireland is a knowledge economy and that its strength is derived from a vibrant and skilled workforce. Without encouraging future generations into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) subjects we risk losing this advantage as our companies face into a shortage of skilled graduates. Worryingly this trend is set to continue both in the short and medium term. In addition, well-rounded graduates with well-developed “softer skills” (such as communications, design-thinking and creativity) are even more difficult to find. Through STEAM’s programmes they engage primary school kids in fun team activities that encourage creative and critical thinking, and doing!

Studies have shown that early intervention is very effective at increasing the uptake of these subjects, and improving overall levels of scientific and engineering literacy. And, as participating engineers, teachers and kids have attested, it is also extremely rewarding.

Thomas O’Connell BA MPlan; Communications/Business Development/Pre-Construction with Sisk Building Contractors & ‘Engineering-in-a-Box’ co-teacher in Ballygarvan NS, Cork

“I thoroughly enjoyed my teaching experience (with STEAM Engineering-in-a-Box).  This is the second year that Sisk have supported the engineering programme, and I have been involved in co-teaching in a small school just outside Cork called Ballygarvan NS. The children responded with enthusiasm and engineering ingenuity to our practical projects; the boys and girls displayed imagination and worked well together in a positive and fun environment. It was a great experience!”

“I would highly recommend my colleagues and other engineering companies to take part. Our Limerick branch, (with engineer Brian Dillon) is now also working with St. Mary’s NS in Bishop Street, Limerick. I think it is a great idea which I hope goes from strength to strength.”

Ireland, along with many other countries, is playing catch up on several fronts: in effective early engagement and “deep interventions” to increase participation and interest in these sectors;  to boost female participation in STEM driven industries like construction which traditionally have been male dominated; and to increase participation from a broader range of socio-economic backgrounds. Part of the challenge is the often unflattering or narrow perception people may have of STEM professionals and careers. Surprisingly few children have ever met or had any significant interactions with real engineers (or scientists or technologists) by the time they are going into secondary school – and are soon expected to choose subjects that could expand or reduce their career options. Feedback from companies, schools and kids involved in our programmes has shown that, in using real engineers from industry and academia to co-teach this fun, interactive 10-week programme, they are substantially changing the mindsets of all involved.

Shane McDonagh, an engineering PhD Student in UCC

Now co-teaching his fourth STEAM ‘Engineering-in-a-Box’ class (supported by Cork City Council and Cork City Partnership) says: “it’s amazing to see the kids attitudes and perceptions of engineering change over the tens weeks of the programme.”

“Thanks to the fun and interactive approach of STEAM, the children go from imagining engineers and scientists as frankly anti-social and difficult to obtain careers, to the problem solvers of the world who use the tools of physics and maths every day to invent ways to improve the world.”

“Of all the outreach I have done this is by far the most rewarding, and the one where you can see the effect almost straight away. I would encourage as many companies as possible to get involved and give something back to their community. I’ve had kids go from telling me they hate maths in week one, to explaining to me using numbers why a crane doesn’t topple over in week three. The way the programme works means that every child will engage with the lessons and it stimulates their critical thinking, something I feel is missing from our education system.”

“Learning isn’t all about remembering things, it should be about applying knowledge to problems as we do in the real world, as we as engineers are asked to do, so why doesn’t our schooling reflect that?” asks Shane.

About STEAM Education


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If you or your company would like to get involved or find out more please contact:

STEAM Education Ltd