This blog is packed with information on how to start a SWENext club! For a cliffnotes version, check out the numbered points and for more information, see the preceding paragraph! Topics of interest are also bolded for conveniently finding what you might be struggling with most!
After surveying our chapters for SWENext interest, the RCT really wants to give you every resource available for you to start your own SWENext Club! Currently, one of our chapters is going through this process. Hopefully, we can shed some light on how exactly to accomplish and run a successful SWENext club.
The first step in making the club is to reach out to a local school. Choosing an age group can be difficult. Think about what age YOU were most impacted by engineering. This is different for everyone. Studies may show that outreach is optimized for one age group, but you are going to be most effective advising an age group you feel most connected to. You also might choose an age group based on current contacts. If you attended a high school nearby, this could be a great place to start! Milwaukee School of Engineering is starting up their SWENext club and chose their age group this way! You might not know anyone in the area and that’s okay too! The internet is a wonderful way to start connecting.
- Reach out to your local schools. It is important to pick your desired age group and reach out to the schools that contain that age group. To do this, simply use a search engine with your search terms as “high schools near me” or whatever age group you are looking for. From there, websites and contacts should be pretty easy to find and navigate. Send emails and even call the school if you are having trouble hearing back; don’t be afraid to be persistent!
Next, choose a member of your chapter who can be the advisor. This will be the person who meets with the students and help prepare activities. This advisor acts as the liaison between the SWNext club and the society.
2. Appoint an advisor from your chapter for the SWENext club. Experience in outreach isn’t required! As long as you have the time and the passion to make a difference, you will do a great job!
Once you have an advisor, schedule your first meeting. This could be either an informative meeting to gain more members for your club or an administrative meeting to set up regular meeting times. For an informative meeting, ask the school(s) to send flyers home with the students that contain the date and time of your meeting. Then prepare your information. What do the students and parents need to know about how your SWENext club works? For an administrative meeting, still have flyers and notices sent out to students. For this meeting, though, focus on setting a regular meeting time and go through desired activities with the students. Maybe even start with an after school pizza party or free period cookie decorating to start the conversations more naturally.
3. Hold your first meeting. Two different types of meetings could be good for this: informative or administrative. If your first meeting is informative, follow it with an administrative meeting. The above paragraph talks about these different meeting agendas.
In regards to meeting frequency, it is best to ask what the club wants. Meeting once a month with you is probably the best place to start but you are by no means limited to this. SWENext clubs are personalized to the needs of the members. Listen to what they want. Send out a survey to all parties involved if you are really stuck on making this decision.
In regards to regular meeting content, it is best to once again ask what the club wants. Some ideas from Milwaukee School of Engineering are to have a guest industry speaker, a hands on workshop from your chapter or local company, plant tour, panels on admissions to a school or on engineering in general. You can also offer to have your SWENext club help run workshops for younger kids to test their engineering comprehension or give them a long term project or goal to work for.
A great place to start is to do the activity in the SWENext newsletter together. Use the newsletter as a guide for your meeting agenda and let their minds expand from there. The newsletter provides society updates that relate to them, activities to do, and topics to explore. Look at this newsletter and think about what extension you could provide them. Maybe you have insight into a cool new technology on the industry the newsletter activity focuses on or maybe a friend works at a plant nearby where they do an industry version of a topic discussed in the newsletter. See what extra content you can provide them but use that newsletter as a place to start. This way, the members also know what to expect at your next meeting and can even come with ideas already!
4. Follow through with your set meeting times and meeting agendas. Listening to the needs of the SWENext club is the most important thing you can do as an advisor. Gain the trust and respect of your members by always following through with plans and including them in decisions. This is THEIR club, too; you are their to give them a portal to begin THEIR engineering journey.
Lastly, check with the society for opportunities and challenges. Always report your SWENext event to the society in order to attract new members and keep spreading the word of engineering. The SWENext website has project ideas, long term challenges, awards, and other events in the US.
Now you have the roots to grow your own SWENext chapter and help spring up the next generation of engineers!
Need more information or want some advice from others? Start a club and want to share some best practices on how you started or how you run meetings? PLEASE PLEASE reach out to your RCT! For Region H, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.