Welcome to our Inside Education Series!
Inside Education is a four-part series where we have students (present & past) talk about teachers that made a profound impact in their lives.
Dr. Shrake was my professor in an elective course called Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS for short) at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. Dr. Shrake became the EPICS director in 2012 and immediately invigorated the program with his young, vibrant personality and attention to detail to experiential engineering and getting things done. Most of my college professors were old-fashioned, had some industry experience, and were generally accustomed to their set ways. They’d lecture about a theory and then test us on memorization of facts for the test and then rinse and repeat until the end of the term. Scott was not like any of them – he encouraged feedback and experiential engineering at every turn.
Now let me explain the format a bit to give you some context. The class worked on a community service projects for the year. At the beginning of the year (around August/September), students would get a project list and Dr. Shrake would tell the students to rank their top three choices for what project they wanted to work on for the class. Projects ranged widely from local civil engineering work on a park to international work in Bangladesh around clean water. What made EPICS different was that it was real world, real-impact, and, most important, real people coming together to solve problems. In all my other classes, I’d learn about this theory, these physics laws, and then take a test about it and forget it. EPICS allowed me to put everything I was learning and apply it to a real-world problem with real people. It allowed me to prototype, validate, and iterate on products as a college student. It taught me how to present in front of a large audience. It gave me a platform to gain skills on presentation and application that no other class offered. I can definitively say I learned more in the EPICS program than I did in any of my other classes at ASU.
What Made Teacher Different
Dr. Shrake was different than every teacher I’ve ever had. He got to know students personally and would often spend time after class time helping students with their projects. In his first year of being a director, I don’t think he got much sleep, because he would spend evening hours with students going over presentations, giving advice on pitching, reviewing grant & business proposals, and demonstrating the importance of networking.
I spent about three years in the program where I worked on about five different projects. I co-founded three of them and the other two were projects I contributed to. My favorite was called 33 Buckets, a project around implementing a clean water distribution model in rural Bangladesh. 33 Buckets just launched a new Indiegogo funding campaign for their new project in the Dominican Republic!
Donate to the 33 Buckets project here: https://igg.me/at/a5K5kh74y3g
After about a year, I had the pleasure of getting to know Dr. Shrake personally. I quickly found out that we both mutually love basketball, so we would play often and eventually I started playing with other faculty. It’s amazing how many opportunities I was given just by the goodness of Scott’s heart. I got to know the Dean of ASU Engineering personally along with the Dean of K-12 Education in Engineering at ASU through Dr. Shrake. Shrake taught me how to pitch ideas and convince others to join a team. He taught me life-long skills about networking, helping & enabling others, and life that I could never have learned in my other college classes or in life.
Why We Need More Teachers Like Dr. Scott Shrake
Experiential engineering. It’s a term that I love and should apply to all facets of life. We need more teachers like Dr. Shrake, because we need teachers that embrace experiential learning, and understand the benefits of teaching through action. Experiential learning enables students to understand that failure is not final, and allows them to do something that they love rather than passing up on opportunities for fear of failure. Experiential learning makes students get out of their comfort zone and embrace the unknown to find some success amongst the rubble. Experiential learning should be taught to all students world-wide.
How We Can Help Teachers Like Dr. Scott Shrake
Teach teachers to embrace ideas and have students try and iterate on prototypes rather than simply teaching theory. Want students to learn computer science? Have them build their own website from scratch, talk thru their ideas, and nurture engineering. Engineering, and life, is all about trying new things and seeing what works and what doesn’t. It’s about teaching yourself how to learn and hoping that others learn how to learn in the process.
Read more about Dr. Scott Shrake here: http://epics.engineering.asu.edu/scott-shrake-joins-fulton-engineering-will-lead-epics-program/
Read more about the EPICS program here: http://epics.engineering.asu.edu/
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