Why is this FSU physics professor handing out recruiting posters for the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering? Because the posters give high school students a road map for preparing for college STEM majors.

When I met in December with Tisha Keller, who is the Marketing and Communications Director for the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, and Kayla McLaughlin, the college’s Recruitment Coordinator, they seemed a little puzzled that I was so eager to get a hold of lots of copies of a large version of the recruiting poster that Tisha had designed for the engineering college.

Why would a physics professor be so enthusiastic about distributing a poster designed to recruit strong students into engineering instead of physics?

For those who knew me already, the answer was obvious. Every year, I teach a two semester sequence of introductory physics for engineers and physical science majors, so I get to spend lots of time with many of the students they recruit. And because I teach in a studio format, I build relationships with many of these students.

So when an engineering major falls short in my classroom because she or he didn’t have the proper preparation in high school, it often breaks my heart a little more. And because about one-third of the students (including engineering majors) who start my course in the fall didn’t take a high school physics course, that little bit of heartbreak happens often. Way too often.

The FAMU-FSU College of Engineering recruiting poster you see me holding so happily above is intended to improve that situation by coaxing more high school students considering a college engineering major into taking the high school courses they need to be well-prepared for college, including physics.

Sometimes it’s not just the students who need reminders. My experience is that parents often don’t know what high school courses are necessary for their students to be well-prepared for engineering majors (or majors in the physical, life, health and computing sciences, for that matter). Sometimes school counselors need reminders. So do principals. And even the occasional school district superintendent needs correction.

I’ve been preaching the gospel of preparation for college STEM majors for more than a decade now, and making perhaps just a smidgen of progress (although the number of Florida public high school students taking physics has been declining for three years). Some time ago, after I had given a talk to a group about preparation for college STEM majors, a member of the STEM education community who really should have known better dismissed my arguments by saying, “Oh, you’re just a physics booster.”

Nobody is going to accuse Kayla and Tisha of just being physics boosters. Now, instead of the physics professor telling parents, teachers, counselors and administrators that high school students who might major in engineering should take physics (and chemistry, and calculus), it’s the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering saying so.

I will soon have a large number of the 24×36 inch versions of the poster you see above. If you’d like some, let me know. I’ll find a way to get them to you. The first shipment is going to a physics professor from New Jersey who requested them. There are many, many more where that came from.

Let’s have some fun with these posters. I certainly will.

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