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Money, Machines, and More

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Money, Machines, and More

Season 4 · Episode 1

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Educator Rachel and engineer Pius introduce Season 4 and brainstorm about what interests us in K-12 engineering education today. We talk about school finance reform, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and more.

Subscribe and leave episode reviews wherever you get your podcasts. Support Pios Labs with regular donations on Patreon, by purchasing digital teaching materials at the Pios Labs curriculum store, or by buying a copy of the reference book Engineer's Guide to Improv and Art Games by Pius Wong. You'll also be supporting educational tools and projects like Chordinates! or The Calculator Gator. Thanks to our donors and listeners for making the show possible. The K12 Engineering Education Podcast is a production of Pios Labs.


Pius Wong  0:00 

It's Season 4 of The K12 Engineering Education Podcast. I'm Pius Wong, and my cohost today is Rachel Fahrig. What interests us in engineering, in education, and in engineering education this coming year? Join us as we talk and figure that out.


Pius Wong  0:27 

Hi, Rachel.


Rachel Fahrig  0:28 

Hi, Pius.


Pius Wong  0:28 

How are you?


Rachel Fahrig  0:29 

I'm well, Happy New Year.


Pius Wong  0:30 

Happy New Year to you, too. It's 2019.


Rachel Fahrig  0:33 

It is. I thought it would never get here.


Pius Wong  0:35 

Why is that?


Rachel Fahrig  0:36 

I don't know. That's not true. [laughs]


Pius Wong  0:39 

Well, we are in interesting times, I would say.


Rachel Fahrig  0:42 

Yes. Interesting times call for interesting plans.


Pius Wong  0:47 

Yeah. And we have to make plans for this podcast. We're starting season four, which is --


Rachel Fahrig  0:51 

Four seasons.


Pius Wong  0:52 

-- incredible, yeah.


Rachel Fahrig  0:53 

Oh my gosh.


Pius Wong  0:55 

Four. Does that make any sense? Like, I thought I started this in 2016. 16, 17, 18, 19. That's four seasons. That's so ridiculous. Well, I think we were supposed to talk about what's to be expected or what we want to do.


Rachel Fahrig  1:08 

Yes, our plans, your plans for what we can talk about, what we can bring to our listeners.


Pius Wong  1:16 

One of the immediate episodes that I know we're going to do for this season is that I managed to speak with somebody who helped start up a company that teaches kids how to program in artificial intelligence, if that makes any sense.


Rachel Fahrig  1:34 

That seems hard.


Pius Wong  1:35 

Yeah, I mean, we've heard about all these different companies or people that might teach kids how to program just basic software.


Rachel Fahrig  1:42 

Lego robots, yeah.


Pius Wong  1:43 

Right. Block programming all the way down to text programming and Python and stuff like that. Well, now we're going to advance up to artificial intelligence, which is something that even engineers in college might not do.


Rachel Fahrig  1:55 

That blows my mind.


Pius Wong  1:56 

Yeah, so we learned a little bit about that. We'll hear about that. But I also want to tackle other topics. Cybersecurity.


Rachel Fahrig  2:05 

I know someone who does cybersecurity.


Pius Wong  2:07 



Rachel Fahrig  2:07 

Yeah, she's a former student of mine. She actually just got married over the summer. I was invited to the wedding and wasn't able to go, but I think that her job basically is hacking her own company to expose vulnerabilities, plan for how to prevent malware attacks or any sort of cyberattack. So basically she gets paid to be the bad guy at her own company.


Pius Wong  2:36 



Rachel Fahrig  2:37 



Pius Wong  2:37 

And she gets paid to do testing? Is that what it is? Or just find --


Rachel Fahrig  2:41 

I'm not really sure, which is why you need to have her on the show. I will connect you guys.


Pius Wong  2:49 

I actually am really interested in that because of the news that is circulating all around us today in 2019 and previously, because of hacking of our Facebook accounts, for example, hacking of our election systems, maybe.


Rachel Fahrig  3:05 



Pius Wong  3:05 

Hacking of our government or military facilities.


Rachel Fahrig  3:11 

I always worry about hacking infrastructure.


Pius Wong  3:15 

Like nuclear power plants, is that what you mean?


Rachel Fahrig  3:16 

Like the electrical grid. I mean, if they can get into Facebook and make us psychologically think things that aren't actually true, then I bet they can probably shut off our power.


Pius Wong  3:29 

Wasn't it the US that sent some computer virus into, like, the power grid of some other country?


Rachel Fahrig  3:37 

I thought maybe. Seems like NPR did a piece on that.


Pius Wong  3:41 



Rachel Fahrig  3:42 

Maybe we should loop that back in, too. [laughs]


Pius Wong  3:44 

It's good I'm not NPR. I'm not a news podcast right now.


Rachel Fahrig  3:45 

No. It's also not fake news. This is all well informed.


Pius Wong  3:51 

We're just talking about, what do we want to discover? What do we want to learn more about this season? And I think that's fair game. I'm not saying that I know all about the hacking that's happened.


Rachel Fahrig  3:59 



Pius Wong  4:00 

But I would like to know. I would like to ask your former student, hey, what can we do as citizens to learn more about this.


Rachel Fahrig  4:07 

To be more aware. To keep ourselves safe.


Pius Wong  4:09 

What do you teach kids about that? Do kids even have to know about this stuff? I would assume yes.


Rachel Fahrig  4:15 

You would think so. But I doubt that that's written into the standards, but I don't know. Maybe it is. Maybe it's in some of the AP Computer Science classes.


Pius Wong  4:24 

Actually, eah, it's probably part of CS Principles, AP CS Principles, which we talked about a little while ago, a little bit, but it's not a focus, for sure. Actually, I've got a friend, too, who's completing her cybersecurity degree in Houston. And I've got to ask her about stuff, too.


Rachel Fahrig  4:43 

They could both be on.


Pius Wong  4:45 



Rachel Fahrig  4:45 

That would be great.


Pius Wong  4:46 

I would love to do that. We talked about the news that is very important today. I think the big elephant in the room, in everyone's room, is, let's say, American politics?


Rachel Fahrig  4:59 



Pius Wong  4:59 

And the administration that is around both at the federal level but also at state and local levels.


Rachel Fahrig  5:04 

Yeah. So here in Texas, some of you may or may not know this, our legislature only meets every other year for a hundred and how many days? I don't know, it's not very long. It starts in January, ends in May. And that's it, and they write and edit and adjust and plan, all of the legislation that needs to occur in that time period. And then they all go back home to their respective districts. So we are currently in the 86th legislative session here in Texas. Big on the agenda this year is school finance.


Pius Wong  5:46 

Huge. I've been seeing it all over the news. I don't know about you, but like I'm not even necessarily looking for it every day, and I here it pop up.


Rachel Fahrig  5:54 

No, it's just there.


Pius Wong  5:55 

Because from what I understand the state legislators here in Texas want to change how schools get their money, how public schools get their money.


Rachel Fahrig  6:04 

Legislators want to change it, but also taxpayers want to change it. We don't have state income tax here in Texas, either. We have sales tax, and we have property taxes. And that's primarily how schools get funded, is through those local property taxes. But, and again -- some of our listeners around the nation may not know this -- In districts that are considered property-rich, meaning there's a lot of revenue generated by those property taxes, some of those funds get sent back to the state, and the state reallocates them to poorer districts, and that's called the Robin Hood law, or the Robin Hood method of school funding. And it's pretty contentious on both sides, whether you're a donor district or recipient district. And the bottom line is, school finance as a whole needs to be overhauled, and I think that's the one thing that everyone can agree on.


Pius Wong  7:07 



Rachel Fahrig  7:08 

And when you think about, you know, science education and engineering education, how schools choose those programs and what programs they choose, can tie very closely to that school funding. So it's kind of an important topic, not just, you know, for the fiscal importance of it, but also how does this actually impact the programs that can be offered in schools?


Pius Wong  7:36 

Yeah, it's a huge question. And I'm one of those people where, especially when I was younger, any discussion of money and finance and budgets was like, the most boring thing. It's like, Oh, my God.


Rachel Fahrig  7:47 

So boring.


Pius Wong  7:48 

Am I really going to be one of those people who talks about --


Rachel Fahrig  7:50 

Of course we are.


Pius Wong  7:52 

But I am. And if anyone who's young is listening to this, I just have to tell you, yeah, when you get older, it's like, this is, like, harrowing.


Rachel Fahrig  8:00 

Yes. This is, you know, those times when you sit in class and you're like, when am I ever going to use this? Well, if you ever pay taxes, you will.


Pius Wong  8:10 

Because schools are underfunded in Texas. Teachers apparently are not getting paid enough. This is a discussion we've been having for quite a while. And a question for me as the non-expert -- I'm not part of the administrative world of education, and you have the experience, but I don't. Well, I just want to know, where is the money coming from that ends up paying for, say, the computer software in this engineering class?


Rachel Fahrig  8:39 

Sure. And where did it come from? How does it travel? What does that funneling system even look like? Yeah.


Pius Wong  8:48 

You just explained right now that -- you used the phrase "money rich" or something --


Rachel Fahrig  8:56 

Oh, property rich.


Pius Wong  8:58 

Property rich. It's a phrase that I don't say a lot. It's hard for me to say. But a property-rich district or area, like for example Austin, Texas, our district that we're sitting in right now. I mean, Austin, you may have heard, around the country, everybody knows this. There's a lot of companies and investment coming into Austin. Property values are rising, but it means that we pay more in taxes compared to the rest of the state. But from what I understand, like you said, the way the rules work, we lop off a segment of that property tax and then distribute it to different parts of the state, to parts of the state that might not have that much money.


Rachel Fahrig  9:38 



Pius Wong  9:38 

And we were just talking to one of our friends who's from the valley, which is the border with Mexico here in Texas, and there's a town, for example, there that isn't as rich as Austin. Very poor, property-poor we'll say, and they're getting the money. In my mind, I'm like, so who's to say that they're less deserving than say the poor high school down the -- like, two miles away from me right here?


Rachel Fahrig  10:05 



Pius Wong  10:06 

So what frustrates me, and I want to ask you this now --


Rachel Fahrig  10:10 

Uh-oh. [laughs]


Pius Wong  10:10 

We're going to find out more. If the deal -- like, why are we arguing about how much to -- or who to give our money -- like which poor --


Rachel Fahrig  10:21 

How to allocate district --


Pius Wong  10:22 

Or which poor school to give it to?


Rachel Fahrig  10:23 



Pius Wong  10:24 

Like, shouldn't we be giving money to all these so-called poor districts or schools that need money? And why don't we have that money? Or do we have that money? And is it just that the people in charge of the money are not spending it right? These are all the questions.


Rachel Fahrig  10:39 

Those are lots of questions, and they're lots of good questions, and I am not the expert, and I do not have the answers. I have opinions, but not answers.,


Pius Wong  10:48 

But you're not allowed to say on air officially --


Rachel Fahrig  10:50 

[laughs] Probably. But there's so much to examine there.


Pius Wong  10:56 

Who could I talk to, to help me draw this little diagram of where the money is flowing?


Rachel Fahrig  11:02 

You know, I think I would start with, if you were able to get a hold of anyone, someone at the state who works directly with the Permanent School Fund.


Pius Wong  11:13 

Permanent School Fund. What is that?


Rachel Fahrig  11:15 

That's the technical term for the lump of money, the bucket of funds, that funds all of the public schools in the state of Texas. That's sort of the bank account name, if you will. So the Permanent School Fund was established by the state legislature, I forget what year, but I believe it was in the 1800s. And its sole purpose -- The only acceptable use for those funds is to fund public schools. It is only to be allocated to public schools in Texas. So the revenue that comes from districts and property -- communities and through property taxes and so on, gets deposited into that Permanent School Fund. Now what happens after that? That's all magic and math.


Pius Wong  11:15 

Who oversees this bank account, this Permanent School Fund?


Rachel Fahrig  12:12 

You know what? I'm actually not sure, but I do know that portions of it are managed through the State Board of Education and the Texas Education Agency. So I'm certain that there is someone that you would be able to reach out to who can answer questions.


Pius Wong  12:28 

Now the State Board of Education, otherwise abbreviated as --


Rachel Fahrig  12:32 

SBOE. [laughs]


Pius Wong  12:33 

See it all the time in newspapers. They are people who are not necessarily educators, though, right?


Rachel Fahrig  12:40 

Correct. They don't need to be educators. They can be business people or community members, just like your local Board of Regents or your local Board of Education, Board of Trustees.


Pius Wong  12:49 

Someone who's appointed or elected?


Rachel Fahrig  12:52 

I believe they are elected.


Pius Wong  12:54 

Okay. And so they're making these decisions of who gets the money.


Rachel Fahrig  13:00 

I don't know the SBOE actually has anything to do with allocations.


Pius Wong  13:06 

Hmm. Interesting. But they oversee this account somehow.


Rachel Fahrig  13:09 

I think they're tied into it somehow.


Pius Wong  13:12 

So on the other side of things, if we go down to the granular level, like, I know that from our experience, when we were working at the University of Texas, working with different STEM programs, the people who decide how to spend money on their kids or whether or not to spend money on a program, it varies.


Rachel Fahrig  13:32 



Pius Wong  13:32 

But it's often times the principal, right?


Rachel Fahrig  13:35 

It depends. It really is a district level --


Pius Wong  13:39 



Rachel Fahrig  13:39 

Yeah. So the superintendent and his cabinet determine how money is spent and who might have a say-so, who gets to sit at that spending table. Some smaller districts, a campus leader would probably have more input, because there are just fewer people in that, you know, cabinet-level decision-making body.


Pius Wong  14:06 

They might have the ear of the superintendent.


Rachel Fahrig  14:07 

Exactly. Or a superintendent maybe might only have -- or might primarily have secondary experience and might be more willing to allow the elementary principal to make those sorts of decisions with greater autonomy because they're the expert. They know more about elementary programs and software and materials and books and so on.


Rachel Fahrig  14:08 

Do superintendents have any say in how much money they get? Can they argue for, say, more money or it's pretty much just codified?


Rachel Fahrig  14:42 

I think it's pretty much codified.


Pius Wong  14:43 

A formula.


Rachel Fahrig  14:44 

Mm hmm. But a superintendent can also seek grants and additional funding opportunities through partnerships with colleges or other educational entities.


Pius Wong  14:56 

And that's what I'm interested in, too, because I know that there is that formula of, like, for public schools, depending on if you get a hundred kids, then for every body, you'll get a certain amount of money. But then some schools might be more active in getting that partnership from the University of Texas, or the community college down the street, or IBM over there. And that's part of that whole diagram or flowchart in my head of where money is coming from.


Rachel Fahrig  15:23 



Pius Wong  15:24 

And I would love to see -- well, love is the wrong word. But I'd be very fascinated to see what that diagram looks like, because I'm sure that there's a bigger, fatter arrow for some schools than others. And if we talk about engineering education, there's probably a certain balance of money going more towards those STEM programs rather than arts programs or athletics or whatever it is. It makes me think of those energy diagrams in biology where, like, in the food chain you see where --


Rachel Fahrig  15:54 

Yeah, the food webs.


Pius Wong  15:56 

The food webs. Yeah. The shark at the top or whatever is eating all these other things. There's the flow of money somewhere in this, and it's hard for me to visualize, and I want to know --


Rachel Fahrig  16:07  

I will say good luck with that.


Pius Wong  16:09 



Rachel Fahrig  16:09 

Because [laughs] It's one of the -- If it's not the top priority of our legislature, it certainly is one of the top priorities.


Pius Wong  16:22 

They want to get rid of Robin Hood, right?


Rachel Fahrig  16:24 

There are people who want to eliminate that system. There are people for whom it's vital, and it's really important. But again, everyone really just agrees that something needs to be done differently. Because what is happening clearly is not working.


Pius Wong  16:40 

What can be done? If we agree that we aren't -- we just don't have enough money right now -- Like, one thing you did mention -- or maybe you didn't mention it, but I was thinking of it -- was maybe, in the districts themselves, they could figure out how to spend that money better or allocate that money better. But then there's also the question how do we just make that pot bigger? By getting an income tax or something else?


Rachel Fahrig  17:05 

Sure. Some people would even argue that we don't necessarily need to make the pot of money bigger. Maybe there really is enough money. We don't know.


Pius Wong  17:16 

It's such a mystery.


Rachel Fahrig  17:17 

Yeah. And there are so many moving parts with over 1200 districts in the state of Texas, and each one of them making their own fiscal decisions independently of the other districts. That's a lot to try to standardize.


Pius Wong  17:39 

And we're only talking about public education right now.


Rachel Fahrig  17:42 



Pius Wong  17:42 

At the K12 level.


Rachel Fahrig  17:43 



Pius Wong  17:44 

How do private schools and charter schools factor in?


Rachel Fahrig  17:48 

So if it's a public charter, then it's funded very similarly to any other public school. Private schools charge tuition, and they are not required to adhere to certain funding decisions the same way. So that's a whole 'nother world.


Pius Wong  18:07 

Right. And vouchers and that kind of thing -- there was talk a while ago.


Rachel Fahrig  18:11 

That's kind of taken a backseat right now. Let's fix the bigger system.


Pius Wong  18:15 

Right. All right. Well, that's a thing that I hope to learn about somehow in the next year.


Rachel Fahrig  18:21 

That will be an interesting investigation.


Pius Wong  18:32 

Are you on Patreon? You know, patreon.com, that site where you can support creators and artists with a couple bucks every month if you like their stuff? Well, donations on Patreon make this podcast possible. So enormous shout outs once again to the donors to this show. I'm really grateful. I produce The K12 Engineering Education Podcast in my indie studio, Pios Labs, and if you want to help me continue it, please pledge your support at patreon.com/pioslabs. Thanks. Now, back to the conversation.


Pius Wong  19:24 

See, this is the thing. I was wondering, actually, for this season, do I focus on any fundamental engineering education topics. Like yeah, we're talking about these hot topics of today, like finance reform and politics, and AI and security, and maybe like, self-driving cars again, or things like that. But there's also the bedrock of, like, design principles, mathematics.


Rachel Fahrig  19:48 



Pius Wong  19:50 



Rachel Fahrig  19:50 

We haven't visited that one in a while. We should bring some of that back.


Pius Wong  19:55 

What would that entail?


Rachel Fahrig  19:56 

Oh, I don't know.


Pius Wong  19:57 

Like, we've talked about how to apply the thinking that you might do in improv, to design.


Rachel Fahrig  20:03 



Pius Wong  20:04 

Which is creative, I think. But like, how can we "yes, and" this creativity theme,?


Rachel Fahrig  20:11 

Let's see. Engineers require creativity to either generate or improve their ideas.


Pius Wong  20:22 

This is true. This is true.


Rachel Fahrig  20:26 

We know some engineers.


Pius Wong  20:29 

This is true, too.


Rachel Fahrig  20:32 

Maybe we ask them to kind of lead us through their thought process.


Pius Wong  20:37 

Like, what makes them creative, or how do you define their creativity.


Rachel Fahrig  20:39 

Yeah. What do you do, either, as inspiration, where do you get your inspiration? Or even if you're very methodical, what do you do to build your own creative abilities?


Pius Wong  20:54 

I like that. We're brainstorming about getting ideas --


Rachel Fahrig  20:56 

We are. This is a verbal brainstorm. It's messy.


Pius Wong  20:59 

But that's cool, because one of my favorite things sometimes listen to are, like, my favorite artists, to listen to their creative process, whether they're musicians or writers or something, and people don't often ask the engineers. They ask Elon Musk. I listened to a podcast about it, but he --


Rachel Fahrig  21:17 



Pius Wong  21:18 

We can talk about him.


Rachel Fahrig  21:19 

Well, then he --


Pius Wong  21:20 

He's been somewhat repentant.


Rachel Fahrig  21:21 

He's kind of a hot topic, and I would like to hear from other people.


Pius Wong  21:26 

The everyday hard-working engineer down the road, like at the civil engineering plant, or the software engineer.


Rachel Fahrig  21:33 

Somebody knows somebody who works at TXDOT. For sure. Yeah.


Pius Wong  21:33 

I've got to find one of those folks.


Rachel Fahrig  21:33 

Do you remember that show Inside the Actor's Studio?


Pius Wong  21:33 

I never watched it, but I know what you're talking about.


Rachel Fahrig  21:40 

This would be like a miniature Inside the Actor's Studio for engineers.


Pius Wong  21:49 

Do I have to be very pandering as well?


Rachel Fahrig  21:51 

No, you don't have to have your three-by-five note cards.


Pius Wong  21:55 



Rachel Fahrig  21:56 

But it would be funny to give them that survey at the end. What's your favorite word, least favorite word? Which favorite, favorite swear word, all that, whatever.


Pius Wong  22:05 

20 questions with a Google engineer.


Rachel Fahrig  22:06 

We can look that up, and we can end each one of them with that. That would be fun. Right?


Pius Wong  22:11 

That's a great idea. I want to do that with teachers too. It's funny that you would say that for engineers, but I want to do it for teachers, because I don't necessarily -- Because teachers are creative, too. When I hear -- When I do talk to teachers, especially off the record, and not with a microphone in front of them, teachers will tell me so much stuff.


Rachel Fahrig  22:27 

Oh yeah. And they all have stories.


Pius Wong  22:29 

Yeah. And it's creative thinking in terms of, not necessarily building something, but in terms of building a classroom or an environment or a lesson, or an atmosphere, or just solving a communication problem with the parent or something like that. And I want to hear more of these stories if anyone was willing to go on the record. Well, here's the thing, there's FERPA, and there's things we can't talk about individual --


Rachel Fahrig  22:55 

No, but we can share methods, and we can share stories, anecdotes, observations.


Pius Wong  23:03 

What's it called? Professional Learning Communities?


Rachel Fahrig  23:05 



Pius Wong  23:05 

The PLC, that's the edu-speak that I learned.


Rachel Fahrig  23:08 

Yeah. Aw.


Pius Wong  23:09 

I do want to have an episode about that.


Rachel Fahrig  23:10 

Way to go with that content area vocab.


Pius Wong  23:13 

Thank you.


Rachel Fahrig  23:13 

You're welcome.


Pius Wong  23:15 

I have that Engineering Word of The Day podcast.


Rachel Fahrig  23:17 

I love that.


Pius Wong  23:18 

Thank you.


Rachel Fahrig  23:18 

You're welcome.


Pius Wong  23:19 

There should be like a teacher word of the day or something.


Rachel Fahrig  23:23 

Well, we might -- oh, acronym of the day, that would be spectacular.


Pius Wong  23:29 

Who else should I talk to? Let's see. In the past -- I'm going to bridge off of past ideas.


Rachel Fahrig  23:44 



Pius Wong  23:44 

Some of the highest, most esteemed or most popular shows or conversations that I've had based on the number and my feedback have been from professors, which is funny, I think because they aren't necessarily in K-12 education, and they're not necessarily practicing engineers either.


Rachel Fahrig  24:05 

They're the bridge.


Pius Wong  24:06 

Yeah, exactly.


Rachel Fahrig  24:07 

That's the link between the industry and K-12 education. We could have sort of a talk-off, if you will, between a K-12 engineering teacher and a college engineering professor about what are really the priorities for learning in their classrooms. What are the most important fundamentals that their students need to come away with?


Pius Wong  24:41 



Rachel Fahrig  24:41 

And have them try to come together -- convergence, if you will -- on, what are the most important things that need to come out of K-12 engineering education, to be successful in post-secondary engineering education.


Pius Wong  24:57 

That sounds like the conversations that would be happening behind closed doors when a state is coming up with learning goals.


Rachel Fahrig  25:03 

Kind of, but have -- like, live, in person.


Pius Wong  25:07 



Rachel Fahrig  25:07 

That would be neat.


Pius Wong  25:09 



Rachel Fahrig  25:10 

And to hear them kind of -- to hear that give-and-take or that -- I can see that they might butt heads and then also fundamentally agree on certain things. I would love to see that push-pull.


Pius Wong  25:25 

Right. I think people who work with younger people in the K-12 level, they -- these teachers might have to think much more about the emotional growth of a person rather than just the --


Rachel Fahrig  25:44 

The whole child rather than the skills.


Pius Wong  25:47 

Right. Which is all -- It just goes back to this giant education problem, because a teacher is not the one thing that's in charge of the emotional growth of somebody.


Rachel Fahrig  25:58 

Sure. There are only so many things that you can control or affect within those four walls of your school building and during the time that you have those students. Other things are completely out of your hands.


Pius Wong  26:13 

Yeah. Which is -- It just goes to show why, if we're going to be focusing on how to improve engineering education, we do definitely have to talk to teachers, but also look a little bit outside that scope at the students at the system, itself, and what is working or not working.


Rachel Fahrig  26:30 

I wonder, too, if there are industry professionals who are actively seeking opportunities or pathways to not just mentor students. I think that gets a lot of attention. But it also sometimes to me, seems kind of superficial. Are there industry professionals who work with their company to actually change K-12 engineering education? Are they working with state agencies to revamp standards? Are they working with more, different state agencies to discuss these budgetary concerns, to create strategic priorities? So that's an open call. [laughs] If anybody knows anybody. But I mean. We can look into that as well, too. But that would be interesting to hear from an industry professional on how are they attempting to reshape or bring to prominence K-12 engineering education.


Rachel Fahrig  26:30 

I'm sure they're out there, especially -- Like, in Austin itself, we hear about different tech companies. I mean, I could name-drop a few, like the Mozilla Foundation nearby. They're really big, I think, on doing stuff for education at the K-12 level and beyond. But what I don't know is, how much of it is just giving people money?


Rachel Fahrig  28:04 

Mm hmm.


Pius Wong  28:04 

And is that good enough?


Rachel Fahrig  28:06 



Pius Wong  28:06 

You hear about Bill Gates with a huge education initiative, but it's essentially giving money to other experts. Which seems fair. Should they be doing more? Should they be making or requiring or incentivizing their employees to go out into these schools --


Rachel Fahrig  28:25 

Or even beyond that, are they working with individuals and schools? Or are they working to really change entire systems?


Pius Wong  28:36 

Yeah, I don't know. I don't know. They'd have to be in those discussions with the legislators and the boards of education.


Rachel Fahrig  28:42 

 Sure. And I don't know how present they are.


Pius Wong  28:45 

Would I even have access to that? [laughs]


Rachel Fahrig  28:47 

I know. I have no idea.


Pius Wong  28:48 

I'm just some guy, you know.


Rachel Fahrig  28:50 

Six degrees of separation. Somebody we know has to know somebody. I know a guy who knows a guy. [laughs]


Pius Wong  28:58 

I will say that, as much as Elon Musk may get a bad rap, I think rightly so in some ways, he has a grand plan engineering-wise to do different things. Like, he has a grand plan to prevent global warming all through, like, you know, designing this battery and selling cars and making it cheaper and doing all these things. And so that's his thing. That's great. Is there an engineer or a technical person who has some grand plan to improve education? Or is it more like oh, we'll just give money to these other folks?


Rachel Fahrig  29:30 



Pius Wong  29:31 

And maybe they don't. I don't know. But if someone does have that plan, what is it? What are you doing to achieve that? Or to get closer?


Rachel Fahrig  29:41 

I would really love to hear that story. If someone has that story, I want to hear it.


Pius Wong  29:47 

Well --


Rachel Fahrig  29:48 



Pius Wong  29:49 

I guess I have a lot to do. Thank you for giving me some homework.


Rachel Fahrig  29:52 

Thank you for inviting me and letting me share some of my ideas.


Pius Wong  29:56 

Thank you for supporting me on this experiment, which has lasted a little while.


Rachel Fahrig  30:02 

Yeah. Hopefully we can keep it going even longer. I'll have to start thinking about the fifth year. [laughs]


Pius Wong  30:09 

So much to do. You're really the teacher, aren't you?


Rachel Fahrig  30:12 

[laughs] No way.


Pius Wong  30:14 

It's like, I have to write a report about this and document everything.


Rachel Fahrig  30:18 

The student has to do all the work.


Pius Wong  30:20 

As long as you don't have to grade it?


Rachel Fahrig  30:21 

No, I will not be grading it.


Pius Wong  30:27 

That was education consultant and former teacher Rachel Fahrig joining myself, Pius Wong, on the show today. Let us know what's on your mind when it comes to engineering education for young people. Send us a tweet or an email, and I hope to follow up soon. Thank you to the supporters of the show on Patreon, too. Your donations of course make this show possible. You can find a link to how to support the show on Patreon or how to tweet us or email us, by visiting the podcast website, and to find that just go to k12engineering.net. The K12 Engineering Education Podcast is a production of my independent studio Pios Labs in Austin, Texas, where I support all sorts of engineering and education projects like this one. Thank you for listening and of course, tune in next time.