Sirena Hargrove-Leak named Engineering Unleashed Fellow

Hargrove-Leak's presentations about engineering education were recognized by peers at national institutions and the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network.

Associate Professor of Engineering Sirena Hargrove-Leak was recently named a 2021 Engineering Unleashed Fellow by the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network.

Hargrove-Leak was one of 27 fellows selected from higher education institutions across the U.S. and will use the fellowship to advance creativity and maker skills in engineering courses at colleges nationwide. Hargrove-Leak is the director of Elon’s Bachelor of Science Engineering Program.

KEEN hosts Engineering Unleashed workshops that advance an entrepreneurial mindset in teaching and learning, research, industry and leadership. It includes more than 50 colleges and universities in the U.S.

“Dr. Hargrove-Leak is truly an ambassador of excellence for your institution and is distinguished both through a Fellows Project and through interactions with the greater Engineering Unleashed community,” said Doug Melton, Kern Family Foundation program director.

In 2020, Hargrove-Leak presented two Making With Purpose workshops for Engineering Unleashed faculty development programs attended by professors across the country. Those sessions described successful outcomes of having students create their own balance sculptures in her EGR 2060 Engineering Mechanics: Statics course to demonstrate concepts taught in the course.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to take these principles out of theoretical calculations into a real-world space,” Hargrove-Leak said.

She was nominated for the fellowship by peers in the workshop and selected by an independent committee of past fellows. The fellowship provides a $10,000 grant, which Hargrove-Leak will use to hone the assignment, collaborate with faculty at other institutions and create “a project nimble enough to be used at Elon and on large campuses.”

She will also survey students to find out how creating a physical product impacts their curiosity.

“It’s been proven that our use of and reliance on electronic devices has impacted our ability to be curious and to think on our own. I want to see if making something tangible, like this assignment, increases students’ curiosity and creativity,” she said.

She plans to publish those findings.

Hargrove-Leak is passionate about engineering education and broadening participation in STEM, particularly among populations historically underrepresented in STEM fields. She regularly participates in engineering education outreach. Her other teaching interests include user-centered design and project-based learning.