Case Study: Engineers of Tomorrow sees 200% Increase in Participation Using Sidekick

August 22, 2022

Engineers of Tomorrow Logo​​​​Engineers of Tomorrow is a nationally incorporated not-for-profit powered by hundreds of volunteers working to inspire the next generation of problem solvers and game changers. Their mission is to tell better stories about engineering today, to have an impact on the engineers of tomorrow. Using the latest research to inform their practices, Engineers of Tomorrow creates positive engineering experiences to shape young minds and showcase what the engineering profession is really all about.​​​​​​

 

Rebecca White, CEO of Engineers of Tomorrow, shares how they used Sidekick to run their VILT for the Engineer in Residence Program

Engineer in Residence Program

Engineers of Tomorrow’s Engineer in Residence Program is a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) outreach initiative that connects teachers with local engineers for the duration of the school year. 

Every match made between an engineer and a teacher partner helps create a customized learning program. Working together, teachers and engineers aim to bring the STEM curriculum to life for school kids. 

The approach Engineers of Tomorrow teach is a human-first approach. Their goal is to have school children and engineers in the program connect as people, first. This allows the students to gain an understanding of all the different ways engineering impacts our daily lives, and to help remove stereotypes of what an engineer does or looks like. Many children don’t have access to adult role models in professions like engineering –74% of teachers report that their students haven’t met an engineer. The Engineer in Residence program helps fill this gap. 

The Training Challenge

Volunteers in the Engineer in Residence Program undergo training that equips them with the tools they need to be more inclusive; introduces storytelling as a teaching tool; and prepares them to create connections virtually. 

When Sidekick and Engineers of Tomorrow began working together, they identified four areas where they were experiencing challenges in their existing volunteer training program: engagement, deep learning, data, and consistency.  

Engagement

Prior to using Sidekick, training would take place using the web conferencing platform GoTo Meetings and the facilitators often found it challenging to keep participants engaged and focused. They’d ask questions or for examples from participants who were often reluctant to respond. Without the support of features that allow for preparation, interaction, feedback, and sharing, these sessions were difficult for trainers to host and facilitate, and not optimal in terms of learner experience. 

Deep Learning 

With low levels of learner engagement, a deep learning and understanding of new concepts, tools, and strategies is less likely to happen. Learners struggle to pay attention, focus, and stay motivated to learn when they don’t actively participate in the training offered to them. When participants are given different tools and strategies to engage with the learning, their recall and understanding is improved. 

Data

With learners’ low levels of engagement, facilitators struggled to obtain feedback about how the training was progressing. They found it tough to read the learners’ understanding of the concepts without any real-time data being fed back to them.

Consistency

Facilitators sometimes ran into glitches in the different tools and apps they were using to present the training. This would often throw them off - as tech problems tend to do! When facilitators don’t have consistent and reliable tools, they lack support when they need something to lean on. 

 

How Did Sidekick Help? 

Sidekick Dashboard on the left half of the screen. Video conference and video controls are shown on the right side of the screen

Sidekick learning experience designers collaborated with Engineers of Tomorrow to structure and create a program that would meet the training objectives for volunteers.

Co-designed First Event 

Working closely as a team, Engineers of Tomorrow and Sidekick’s learning experience designers co-designed the first training event for 100 participants. This process included a review of Engineers of Tomorrow’s existing training to identify current strengths; setting goals for improvement; and using Sidekick enhancements to help achieve those goals. Using their existing content, Sidekick created a playbook that included breakout groups, polling, and sequenced steps. The result was a 200% increase in participation and higher engagement across the event.

Increased Engagement 

The clearly outlined program and learning-objective driven activities, made it easy for the facilitator to deliver the training with confidence. The pre-defined and structured case studies, polls, and breakout room discussions, dramatically increased engagement and created consistency in delivery. This resulted in a better learning experience for the Engineers in Residence, students, and teacher partners.

Encouraged Deeper Processing of Content

The structured activities and peer-to-peer knowledge sharing allow participants the opportunity to process the learning material in a meaningful and intentional way, and reflect on how it fits directly into their own real-life situations. This allows for a deeper understanding of new concepts and principles they’ve learned.  

Provided Real-time Data to Respond to Participant Needs 

Using Sidekick, real-time data is available to trainers based on learners’ participation in activities. This makes reading and responding to participants’ engagement levels far less challenging for a facilitator faced with a quiet audience! That immediate feedback allows the trainer to respond in an applicable way: by clarifying a concept, providing another example, asking for participant examples, or by providing more time for breakout-room discussions.

Following the training event, data relating to participation in activities can be collected and used to improve training effectiveness and inform the design of future training offerings. 

Allows for Replicable and Customizable Future Events 

Engineers of Tomorrow provides a series of training events for volunteers. Instead of having to plan, prepare, and choreograph a new event each time, Sidekick allows the program to be replicated as is when they discover the formula that’s working for them. This also provides different volunteers with the opportunity to become involved in delivering the training - even if they have very little or no experience. 

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