Rowan Engineering hosts KEEN Teacher Camp, works to help inspire next generation of engineers

Rowan Engineering hosts KEEN Teacher Camp, works to help inspire next generation of engineers


Faculty from the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering hosted teachers from southern New Jersey school districts for the first “KEEN Teacher Camp.” Rowan Engineering and KEEN co-sponsored the weeklong event, held on Rowan’s Glassboro campus from July 8 to 12. This program builds on the tradition of successful continuing education programs for k-12 teachers that Rowan Engineering has hosted annually.

Rowan Engineering partners with KEEN, a network of colleges and universities dedicated to enhancing and empowering student-engineers with an entrepreneurial mindset, to improve its own curriculum and develop outreach programs that inspire the next generation of engineers.

This summer program for high school science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teachers was established to ensure that teachers are exposed to college-level engineering curricula, that high school curricula effectively promote the skills and competencies necessary for success in college and that more students are able to understand the entrepreneurial and innovative thinking that is needed to meet the engineering challenges of the 21st century. 

This year’s program included a community-based design element not typical of engineering outreach programs. Community-based design seeks to use local problems identified by members of distinct communities as the bases for learning. “Communities” can be as large as cities or as small as classrooms. Engaging members of the community is an essential element in this type of design.  By incorporating community-based design elements, the engineering profession becomes relatable and tangible for middle and high school students, and the continuous community engagement also serves to illustrate for students how their work improves the quality of life for themselves and within their community.

“This was a very successful program,” said Dr. Cheryl Bodnar, associate professor of experiential engineering education and program director. “We were excited to see such great interest and that participants left feeling empowered with new tools to engage their students. We are fortunate to have faculty at Rowan Engineering who are interested in collaborating with our colleagues in K-12 education. We are equally fortunate to have so many educators in southern New Jersey who are dedicated to continuously improving the experience of their students through a community-based engineering design program.”

Teachers participating in the program worked alongside college faculty and their own colleagues to create a community-based design project that mirrors lessons that their students will experience. The group developed activities and lesson plans that are tangible and relatable for middle school and high school age students and, importantly, can be accomplished safely in those educational settings. 

“We are proud of this work, and proud of the network of collaborative educators we are developing,” said Dr. Stephanie Farrell, interim dean of the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering. “It’s through programs like this that we are able to learn from each other, so that more students can access educational opportunities and eventually move into rewarding careers.”