by Barbara Black
Concordias Native Access to Engineering Program (NAEP) Web site
gained international exposure this month when it was chosen one of the
Eisenhower National Clearinghouses Digital Dozen for
The ENC is a major math and science education Web portal based in the
United States. It serves to identify effective curriculum resources, create
professional development materials, and disseminate useful information
and products in the field.
The NAEP project was conceived in 1993 by the Faculty of Engineering and
Computer Science in cooperation with the Quebec Order of Engineers, to
address the low participation rate of aboriginal people in the applied
sciences in Canada.
This had long been an interest of NAEP founder Corinne Jetté, a
member of the Tuscarora Nation, who teaches technical writing in the Faculty.
Dawn Wiseman, the program coordinator, had got involved in science programs
aimed at schoolchildren as an undergraduate in engineering. She became
so galvanized by the work that she is now integrating her experience into
her MA project in media studies.
In 1998, with financial help from the government of Canada, they launched
the NAEP Web site so that teachers and students, many of them in isolated
communities in Canadas North, could be provided with an introduction
to engineering and science tailored specifically for them. Over the past
year, the Web site has been redesigned, and the introductory page says
First Nation communities are growing. They need more housing and
hospitals; improved roads and runways; safe sewage and water treatment.
To support this growth, First Nations need people who know the communities
and can build the future while honouring the past: teachers and doctors;
politicians and nurses; entrepreneurs and engineers.
We work with the engineering profession and academic institutions,
as well as government and business, to develop programming which will
encourage aboriginal youth to stay in school and pursue post-secondary
studies in the pure and applied sciences.
Most importantly, we work with First Nations communities
students, teachers, parents, elders and leaders from across Canada
to ensure that the programming we produce is relevant and meets the needs
and expectations of the community. Cooperative partnerships of this kind
The Native Access to Engineering Program Web site, at www.nativeaccess.com,
is bright and attractive and offers nearly 1,000 individual pages and
more than 1,500 links to external sources. Its full of ideas bound
to appeal to these students, including games, puzzles and intriguing links.
Ancestral engineering describes the practical problems that
had to be solved for survival in the rugged conditions of the past. Community
projects describes current work in their own backyard, such as the
launching of satellites and scientific instruments near Churchill, Man.,
and the sophisticated geographic information system (GIS) that is helping
some of the Shuswap people of B.C. protect their traplines and sacred
grounds from inappropriate development.
Other NAEP projects include a resource guide on where to study engineering
across Canada, curriculum sets for teachers with connections to math and
science that are relevant to First Nations students, and a professional
development conference called DreamCatching. The NAEP also participates
in local, regional, national and international events such as academic
conferences and career fairs.
Partners in the Web site project include the Office of Learning Technologies
(Human Resources Development Canada), the Learning, Employment and Human
Resources Development Directorate (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada),
and the Ministère de lÉducation du Québec,
with ongoing involvement from IBM Canada.