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Exciting A New Generation Of Engineers

Exciting A New Generation Of EngineersAs its president, Tufts graduate Ioannis Miaoulis is taking the Museum of Science to new heights, seeking to make the 175-year old establishment a national leader in promoting “technological literacy” to its young visitors.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [12.19.05] During his tenure as dean of the School of Engineering at Tufts, Ioannis Miaoulis made it his mission to spark college students’ interest in the field of engineering. More than a decade later, the Tufts graduate is still at it. But, this time, the president of Boston’s Museum of Science is focusing his efforts on a younger crowd.

"We have gone from being a society that makes things to a society that talks about things," Miaoulis, who earned his bachelor’s and doctorate degrees in mechanical engineering from Tufts, as well as his master’s degree in economics, told The Boston Globe Magazine. "That's because engineering doesn't get the respect it deserves."

To change this, Miaoulis is doing everything he can, through the museum and the Massachusetts school system, to put engineering on the educational map.

"Our main goal is to make every kid technologically literate,” Miaoulis told the Globe. His plan, according to the newspaper, is to make the 175-year old museum “a national trend-setter in the effort to increase technological literacy, not only by altering the museum's exhibits and programs, but by becoming an active partner in education.”

Maioulis aims to give schoolchildren a taste of engineering, which, he said, they begin to explore naturally at a young age.

"What do kids do in their spare time?" he asked the Globe. "They build things!”

Miaoulis seeks to capitalize on that curiosity in the classroom and make engineering fun for kids, much as he did for students at Tufts. According to the Globe, Miaoulis designed and taught a class for freshmen that related engineering to cooking when he taugh there.

“The class was really about heat transfer, an important principle of engineering, but we taught it in a kitchen,” he told the Globe. “At the end of the class, you could eat the experiment … Students realized that it could be fun and that engineering could bring math and science to life.”

Five years ago, while he was still at Tufts, Miaoulis ensured that the same message would reach younger students, as well, when he convinced the Massachusetts Board of Education to incorporate engineering into public school curricula, according to the Globe. He has continued that work at the museum, partnering with teachers across the state to develop the “Engineering is Elementary” curriculum, which has already been used by more than 2,000 students in Massachusetts and will be introduced in 10 more states this year.

"If you had to name the father of technology education in Massachusetts, it would be Ioannis," David Driscoll, the state's commissioner of education, told the Globe. "He makes things happen."

Miaoulis is making things happen at the museum, where exhibits, like Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination, “tout the museum's message that technology can be fun,” reported the Globe. In the future, the museum will also feature exhibits focused on nanotechnology, or “engineering at the molecular scale.” The newspaper reported that Boston’s museum was one of only three in the country selected by the National Science Foundation to lead a $20 million effort in this area.

According to the Globe, other science museums are curious to see how well Boston’s Museum of Science fares in this endeavor.

"The Museum of Science is a leader in this," Nancy Stueber, president and CEO of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, told the Globe, "and I think there's a great need for what they're doing. We're all increasingly looking at technology to use it as a tool to deliver on our mission, which is to increase public understanding about science."

Ultimately, that is Miaoulis’ goal.

“If we start now in the school system [educating kids about engineering], within 18 years we will have reached every single kid in the United States," he told the Globe.












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