Visioneering is an annual event that celebrates the ways engineering makes a positive impact in world. This event began in 2000 as the collaborative idea of Torrence Robinson, President of Flour Foundation, and Geoffrey Orsak, then dean of SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering. Its target audience is middle school-aged students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, because experts have identified this age group as the critical time students make a decision regarding the pursuit of further education in STEM fields or not. Most students possess minimal knowledge on what engineering is all about and what engineers actually do. For this reason, Visioneering’s main purpose is to bring middle school students together with professional engineers and SMU Lyle Engineering students to explore the possibilities of engineering through a hands-on Design Challenge competition.
Teachers are very enthusiastic about Visioneering, because the Design Challenge is an activity the students don’t see in the classroom. The Design Challenge asks these students to tackle a real-world problem using the Engineering Design Algorithm. This year the Design Challenge focused on re-designing the classroom of 2025. As part of the challenge, students were asked to create a 3D diorama. One teacher commented, “This was a fun way to get kids to think, create, work together, and experience real-world challenges.” Another mentioned, “I think in addition to learning about engineering and the engineering design, our students have learned what it means to be a team.”
Bringing teachers and middle school students to SMU’s main campus is only half of Visioneering; the other half is the professional mentors and SMU Lyle Engineering students who volunteer their Saturday morning to mentor the next generation of engineers. There is an incredible relationship that is built between the teams of students and their professional mentors during Visioneering.
Watching the mentors walk the students through the design process is really intriguing. The professionals are motivated to mentor by the increasing need for young, new talent in the field, which makes them eager to pass on their expertise. These young students have such a high energy level that the mentors’ own sense of enthusiasm for engineering is increased. The student’s learn more than what they need for the Design Challenge project during their interaction with their mentors. Some mentors give the students their business cards in case they have questions about other engineering aspects in the future.
Visioneering is generously supported by several corporations: Texas Instruments, Lockheed Martin, Fluor, Time Warner Cable and Bell Helicopter. Their funds make the event free to attend for the middle school students and teachers. These corporations also send professional mentors to work with the students, which contributes to the invaluable experience.
Christie Pearson, Program Coordinator for TEDxSMU and for the Lyle School of Engineering’s Special Programming, is a native Dallasite. She graduated from Southern Methodist University in 2011 with three Bachelor of Arts degrees in International Studies, French and Political Science. During her four years at SMU, Christie traveled throughout Europe and spent a semester in Washington D.C.. While there, she interned for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights in 2010.
Upon graduation, Christie was accepted into the Teaching Assistantship Program in France by the French Embassy in Washington D.C. Christie was assigned to a French high school in Châlons-en-Champagne, a small town in the Champagne Region of France, just outside Reims.
Christie returned state-side to begin her professional career and in 2013 joined TEDxSMU as the Program Coordinator. She has also been the Program Coordinator for the Lyle School of Engineering’s Special Programing since 2013.
Christie is passionate about finding ways to be creative whether that be through fashion, social media or graphic design. Her favorite part of her job is working with college students.