About Engineer’s Playground
Yvonne Ng first set up Engineer’s Playground while teaching Engineering In Our World at St. Catherine University. Most students had been business majors until 2009 when all elementary education majors were required to take it as part of the STEM Certificate program.
It started as a blog and the first post, “Insights From Cleaning a Pan” set the tone for her quirky commentary on the STEM Education trend from her vantage point as an engineer-turned-educator.
After teaching engineering for a number of schools and school districts in Minnesota and serving at St. Catherine Univerity’s National Center for STEM Elementary Education, Yvonne expanded Engineer’s Playground into a consultancy in 2012 and expanded service to schools across the country.
However, she found that the teachers who needed and wanted the quality and rigor that professional engineer-turned-educator could provide couldn’t afford it. A new business model was required.
In 2012, Yvonne moved Engineer’s Playground into a product-development business model, starting with Engineering for the Uninitiated, a gentle introduction to engineering for parents and teachers based on the common questions she encountered while teaching.
In 2014, Engineer’s Playground partnered with Mindware Toys to create Start Up Circuits, focused on toddlers. At this time, there were a good number of STEM products coming to market, but based on Yvonne’s research and experience, there were some gaps that could really help bring STEM success to more. Start Up Circuits addressed a key gap in early childhood development for electrical concepts: A circuit is a circle.
Following products addressed gaps in preschool education to college on STEM topic ranging from algorithmic thinking to professional skills required in industry.
Whoever wants to understand much must play much. — Gottfried Benn
Yvonne is a person who loves being an engineer. Even though her jobs haven’t always been official engineering positions, she has found that her engineering approach has been of value. It is when she challenges herself in a new venue that she realizes the true value of engineering as a discipline.
From being an automation engineer, a computer consultant, a professor, professional development educator, a mother, and now a Business Analyst in IT, she has seen the value of engineering practices such as:
Iterative design (because you have to start to figure out what you don’t know)
Creating a model (to use what you know to extrapolate further)
Identifying assumptions (to simplify the problem to a solvable one—before you put in the complexities of the real world)
Drawing a picture (because no one passed mind-reading class)
Being solution-focused (to keep your eye on the prize)
Managing risk (because nothing is ever a guaranteed success)
Creating measurable results (so you know when to stop)
Identifying priorities (because you can’t get everything all the time)
Developing a project plan (even if you deviate from it later)
Though the business model of Engineer’s Playground has changed, the goals remain the same:
MUST HAVE Authentic engineering and technology experiences for students (so when they succeed in school, that will help them succeed in the real world)
MUST ATTEMPT TO Integrate STEM (because Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics are not islands—and other subjects like history, art, and writing are important in being a game-changing STEM professional)
MUST STRIVE FOR Inclusion (because creative solutions come from people with different perspectives, values, and experiences—across class, gender, culture, etc)
And… MUST BE Fun for Yvonne (because this really is her playground)
See more on Yvonne’s Linked In page.
Where you may have seen Yvonne:
and various keynotes, talks, and workshops at events like The Works’ Excellence in Elementary Engineering Education (E4) Conference, Minnesota Independent School Forum (MISF), National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), Talent Management Alliance (TMA), and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)