Member Voices

STEM Outreach Through YouTube

By Kyle Gillis posted 09-19-2019 05:17 PM

  

Choosing a major in college

“Umm … psychology, computer science or biology!”

This was my exact response in my senior year of high school when my principal asked the age-old question, “What do you want to major in for college?”

He was thrilled to hear that I had some ideas for what I wanted to do. But what he didn't know was that I’d just binge-watched “Lie to Me,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “House” the previous week.

Fast-forward to today and I’m now a senior engineering student at West Virginia University, but there are more than 2 million new students who will be in the same situation I was in, deciding on a major for college. However, with a screen at everyone’s fingertips, there are now more personalized and influential platforms that are helping this next generation make their decisions (including what major to choose). And it’s not Netflix.. It’s YouTube.

 Meeting kids where they are

“Yo, are you the kid from YouTube!?”

Two years after starting my own engineering-themed YouTube channel this began to be a semicommon thing to hear when the incoming freshman students arrived on campus. How is that possible? My channel doesn’t have any viral videos with millions of views, and it only has 3,000 subscribers (a relatively small number for YouTube).

This is the magic of YouTube!

It’s not like traditional TV or Netflix, where you have to make a movie or a show that targets a huge market. On YouTube, you can make content that specifically talks to the 17-year-old boy or girl who doesn’t know what to do with their life and is debating five different majors.

This is exactly what I did for kids thinking about engineering. I made relatable content that didn’t teach or preach to them, but rather just told stories about my everyday life as an engineering student.

The real results

“Seeing those videos is a major reason why I decided to come to school here.” 

After a year of posting videos, an unexpected outcome began to take place. A community began to form around the content where thousands of comments would be posted from students asking questions and engaging each other about engineering. Oftentimes, there are questions and concerns students have around a particular major (i.e. how difficult is the math?), where recent grads and current engineers leave feedback for them.

Here are three examples from the comments section of some videos:

Had it not been for feedback like this early on, I doubt I would have continued to make content. There’s an irreplaceable feeling you get when someone is moved enough to leave a comment or as a question.

Let me be clear that I’m not the reason for this STEM-based content connecting with the students. Any individual or organization can make this type of content. It’s a matter of getting different opinions and perspectives in front of these kids in a relatable way that connects with them.

And there’s never been a better time to do so.

Kyle Gillis is an engineering student, YouTuber and the co-founder of two active startups. He’s completing his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering at West Virginia University and will graduate in December 2019. A year after dropping out as a sophomore he returned to continue his education, and also began a YouTube channel educating students on engineering. He went on to co-found a drone STEM kit company called “Iconic EDU,” and later co-founded an environmental intelligence company called Iconic Air. His plans after graduation are to continue growing each of his two businesses, making them sustainable for the long term. You can reach him at ksgillis@mix.wvu.edu. Follow him on LinkedIn.

    


2 comments
135 views

09-27-2019 02:53 PM

Thanks Brian! Appreciate the comment.

09-27-2019 02:40 PM

​You're killing it Kyle! Nice work. I can see that you are seeing the big picture and that's so valuable.