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First-year engineering students are heading to the front of the class this spring as they become teachers of engineering at Playa Vista Elementary School, in Los Angeles.

Twenty-five students in the Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering are gaining practical experience teaching elementary students engineering concepts as a part of the Program for an Engineering Education Community (PEEC).

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“I can’t wait to be in a setting where I get to teach others about something I love,” said electrical engineering major Daniel McGrath. He and his classmates will be collaborating with teachers and implementing hands-on engineering projects with third-, fourth- and fifth-graders about geothermal heating and cooling, water filtration and solar energy. PEEC students learned about these and other sustainable engineering concepts and practices in the fall introduction to engineering course.

In collaboration with Playa Vista teachers, PEEC students create the lessons, put the activities together and teach the concepts, explained Playa Vista Elementary School Principal Rebecca Johnson. This also helps to reinforce teachers’ understanding of the material.

Johnson explained how PEEC students conducted an in-service training with teachers about the engineering design process. While the subject matter was familiar to the teachers, they became attuned to new aspects of the design process giving them a deeper understanding of the subject.

PEEC students are also learning practical lessons. “We’re getting real world experience,” said McGrath. “I need to think about budget, who’s going to be doing what in our group, how to communicate the information and bring down the technical language.”

The project is in its second year and Johnson would like to see it expand to all grade levels.

The PEEC program is Loyola Marymount University’s living-learning community for first-year engineering students that began in 2009. Before the start of the fall semester, PEEC students participate in a pre-college experience. PEEC students also live together and are enrolled in certain courses together.

This interschool partnership was facilitated by LMU Center for Math and Science Teaching Associate Director Jelena Trifunovic ’05, M.Ed. ’07 and Seaver College Director of Student Engagement Sandra Luca. Jeremy Pal and Jose Saez, both associate professors of civil engineering, alternate in leading the PEEC program.