DiscoverE junior instructors get a head start in engineering

DiscoverE junior instructors spent their summer teaching kids about engineering, science and technology--and getting a behind-the-scenes look at what it's like to study engineering.
(Edmonton) With an engineer’s iron ring adorning a silver chain around Erin Tetreau’s neck, it came as no surprise that the Grade 12 student volunteered as a Faculty of Engineering DiscoverE summer junior instructor over the summer.


Tetreau took over the ring from her dad, a practicing engineer and an advocate for the profession, but now she knows first-hand what it takes to be part of the U of A engineering student community.

Tetreau was one of 11 DiscoverE junior instructors who volunteered this summer at camps teaching engineering, science, and technology projects to kids, leading activities, and getting a sneak peek at student life.  

“We went on a tour of the nanoFAB and we could ask any of the instructors about their university experience,” said Tetreau, who has become more informed about engineering education.

Along with campus tours, junior instructors got a chance to meet the faculty and Engineering Students’ Society leadership and advisors, learning about course offerings and getting a head start in their undergraduate degrees.

“The other day, senior students asked me if I needed any textbooks. They also offered advice about first year and how to go about classes,” said Mackenzie Born, a DiscoverE junior instructor who started her first year of engineering this week.

“The program is a great way to get a behind-the-scenes look at the Faculty and programs,” explained Ilana Crawford, director of DiscoverE.  “Successful junior instructors that complete at least seven or eight weeks of full-time volunteering and are enrolled in full-time studies in the Faculty of Engineering are eligible for up to $1,500 in scholarship money for their first year,” she added.

Apart from sampling the engineering lifestyle and bonding with current students, junior instructors perfected their interpersonal, communication, and public speaking skills, and learned to think on their feet, connect with kids, and teach hands-on projects.

“I used to be quite shy. I noticed a huge improvement in making good conversations and learned how to make kids comfortable. We became their friends,” said Rhianne Tung, who also started classes this week.

For Shikhar Gupta, the projects he taught at the camps served as a refresher of high-school physics and an example of its real-life applications.

“We taught what I learned in high school to Grade 3 and 5 students. How camps go into each subject in depth is quite fascinating,” said Gupta.

Campers, however, were not the only ones who benefited from the engaging learning environment. As kids were getting more comfortable around junior instructors, the students became the teachers.

“In my fossil finder camp, there was a kid who could list 20 different names of dinosaurs. I’ve learned the time periods when they lived and how each of them survived. So exciting,” said Tetreau.

One of the highlights of the summer junior instructor experience for Tetreau, Born, Gupta and Tung was building relationships and making a difference in lives of kids.

“The experience makes you feel like you’re doing something productive,” said Gupta.

Toying with the engineering ring on the chain around her neck, Tetreau began thinking of what she’ll do next summer—and beyond.

“I will definitely try to come back as a junior instructor next year,” she said. “It’s very fulfilling to be here and a fun way to spend your summer.”