2011 has been a year of celebrating SAE International’s A World In Motion (AWIM) program. The year marks the 20th anniversary of when this educational curriculum was first introduced to elementary-school-aged kids around the country.
The two decades since that beginning have seen tens of thousands of AWIM kits distributed to thousands of elementary schools, middle schools, and now, high schools. They also have seen countless acts of collaboration between industry and academia as business leaders have supported this program.
And, most importantly, the past 20 years have seen millions of children impacted by the value of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, and inspired to continue learning about these crucial skills.
But, what is the true value of the AWIM program? At its most basic level, it helps to make learning fun. Students use their hands, minds, and imaginations as they design a vehicle and then compete in fun and challenging activities.
The beauty of AWIM, though, is that it doesn’t stop there. Because of how the program is designed, it brings together industry with academia; it enables private industry engineers to work with school teachers in a way that enhances the learning experiences for everyone involved.
AWIM is about dedicated teachers who know and understand the importance of STEM skills for students of today and tomorrow. And, AWIM is about engaged professionals who want to share their knowledge and skills, in the hopes of stoking the learning fire of today’s youth.
The AWIM program, in essence, mirrors a well-designed and well-implemented engineering plan—there is a stated goal and a plan to reach that goal. In this case, the goal is to teach young children about STEM skills, and the plan is to do it in a way that is engaging and fun.
AWIM offers interdisciplinary, project-based learning to students in kindergarten through high school. With 10 interactive curricula called “challenges,” AWIM allows students to participate in an “engineering design experience”—a problem-solving process taught at many engineering schools and used by engineering design teams working in the field. Challenges include designing and constructing a JetToy, Skimmer or Gravity Cruiser, and more sophisticated fuel cell, electronic, and motorized cars.
The other element that AWIM so aptly brings to the forefront is the importance of corporate support in any learning initiative. The millions of students reached through AWIM over the years would not have been possible without the generous support of some of the leaders in mobility engineering. Those companies that have made significant contributions over the years include General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Caterpillar, Nissan, John Deere, Robert Bosch, Honda, Denso, AVL North America, and Navistar.
Such companies set an example for all others to follow…and hundreds have.
Finally, the AWIM program stands as a testament to the importance of cooperation and collaboration. For the past few years, SAE International and the National Society of Black Engineers have worked together to engage inner-city and underprivileged youth in Washington, D.C.; Oakland, CA; San Diego, CA; and Columbus, OH, in the STEM skills, using the AWIM curriculum.
AWIM truly is the complete package. It not only helps SAE International fulfill its mission to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists, but it does so in a complete fashion.
At a time when introducing students to hands-on experience in science, technology, engineering, and math is critical, AWIM is leading the way in classrooms across North America and around the globe.
David L. Schutt, SAE Chief Executive Officer