Think a preschooler can’t understand engineering? One new company in Ahwatukee Foothills is out to prove they can.

Engineering for Kids is an after-school program for ages 4 to 14 that teaches engineering skills to kids through hands-on experiences with robots; airplanes and rockets; solids, liquids and solutions; plants; toys; roller coasters; LEGOS; and even video games, in hopes that they might begin thinking more critically and maybe some day even consider engineering as a career.

It may seem like a stretch to imagine young kids doing the same things aerospace and chemical engineers do, but Engineering for Kids founder and CEO Dori Roberts said it came naturally for her own young kids and that’s why she felt inspired to share it.

Roberts is a former high school engineering teacher. As a teacher she took some students to a national engineering competition and her young kids, ages 6 and 8 at the time, came along.

“They were very excited by what my high school students were doing,” Roberts said. “They wanted to compete, too. Because I saw that interest in them and that spark I started thinking about whether or not engineering was being introduced to kids at an elementary school level.”

Finding no such programs, Roberts started her own on a volunteer basis. It grew quickly and eventually she quit her teaching job and started offering Engineering for Kids classes after school, on the weekends, at birthday parties, and even summer camps. She sold her first franchise in 2011.

Ron Hoagland recently started the first franchise in Arizona in Ahwatukee Foothills. The programs are being run out of Pecos Community Center.

Engineering for Kids programs are typically six weeks for about an hour after school once a week. Each class is given an engineering problem they are asked to address. They’re given different supplies and they test out different materials and design their own solution to the problem. Students then test their design, perfect it, and test again. The programs are divided into three different age groups with curriculum designed specifically for each age. Every class is hands on with a low student-to-teacher ratio.

“With kids there’s a natural curiosity and wanting to know how things work,” Hoagland said. “In doing our research and looking at how Arizona stacks up to the rest of the United States and how the U.S. stacks up to the rest of the world in these areas of education, we thought, ‘Wow, we can introduce these concepts to kids at a very young age and maybe we could spark an interest in engineering and a passion for lifetime learning.’ All of that really pointed to an opportunity for us to bring something to the community that’s really going to be positive.”

The next term of Engineering for Kids classes in Ahwatukee will begin in mid-February. For more information, visit engineeringforkids.com/eastvalley or call (480) 779-8184.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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