Last week, young people in the AfterZone’s Design Squad Global program visited Dassault Systèmes SIMULIA in Johnston, RI, to tour the facilities and meet employees from various departments/disciplines. The tour came after 10 weeks of young people learning engineering principles, working through design challenges, and participating in a cultural exchange through the Design Squad Global curriculum.
Design Squad Global is a PBS program through our local affiliate WGBH. In addition to introducing youth to engineering principles and design challenges, Design Squad Global connects youth to people outside of their usual network. Volunteer engineers from Dassault Systèmes SIMULIA come into the classroom to work side by side with youth on design challenges. When asked why SIMULIA engages with schools to get young people excited about careers in STEM fields, Eda Celen, Software Engineer and STEM committee leader, responded, “At SIMULIA, we are passionate about getting students excited about STEM careers through community outreach and sponsoring for youth programs. Through established programs, we try to break the stereotypes associated with STEM careers. As volunteers, we try to show students how fun it is to work as an engineer and let them meet people from all kinds of backgrounds within the industry. We are aware that the students we interact with today will be our co-workers in the near future.”
Youth also participate in a cultural exchange with young people from another country during the 10-week Design Squad Global program. As the young people share in the design process across countries (and sometimes across continents!), they also have the opportunity to ask each other questions like, “What’s your favorite food?” and “What’s your neighborhood like?” For this session, youth worked with young people from South Africa. Hence, Design Squad Global is as much about engineering as it is about teamwork and learning about other cultures.
During the tour last week, young people had the opportunity to interact with Dassault Systèmes technologies and perform a “can crush” experiment. Technologies included a “Simpack Driving Simulator” and a “Living Heart for Cardboard” virtual reality. The can crush experiment taught youth about the structural integrity of a product. If the can is structurally sound, it can withstand the weight of someone standing on it, but if it’s blemished or dented in any way, it will collapse. Similarly, youth learned about the evolution of product design, with the can and its indented bottom to prevent explosion at freezing temperatures as an example.
PASA’s mission is to expand young people’s sense of possibility through fun, real-world learning experiences. We are grateful to Dassault Systèmes SIMULIA for providing a grant for the Design Squad Global program and for the employees who came into the schools to work alongside the youth, and to WGBH for providing the curriculum and coordination with our South African partners. Thanks to Dassault Systèmes SIMULIA and WGBH, we were able to achieve our mission. Young people’s horizons became global as they saw the possibilities of an engineering career, interacted with South African youth, and worked alongside engineering professionals.