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4th Grade Engineering – Building Upon the Curriculum of Science, Math, and Creativity to Inspire the Next Generation of Engineers (Evaluation)

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Engineering Design for Elementary Students

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


John C. Oliva Corteva Agriscience

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Dr. John C. Oliva has had a diverse career spanning the fields of academia and industry. John spent the first part of his career teaching mechanical engineering as a full-time faculty member, first at Kettering University and later at Grand Valley State University. He then transitioned to the corporate world where he has spent the more recent portion of his career as a professional engineer. John currently works as the Tools & Systems Leader for Engineering & Operations Technology in Corteva Agriscience. Corteva is the combined agriscience businesses of DowDuPont that was spun off as an independent company on June 1st, 2019.

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Diane Spence

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The standard fourth grade curriculum of math, science, and creativity (in the name of art, composition, and music) equips students with all of the basics that they need to do simple engineering activities. Over the course of the last several years, this principle has been leveraged at St. Thomas Aquinas School in East Lansing, MI to present students with a brief overview of the engineering profession. More than just a show-and-tell of the career, the “4th Grade Engineering” sessions have sought to immerse the students in engineering activities to actually let them experience many facets of the field in a hands-on fashion. During a fast moving period, the fourth graders get to try their hands at design, system analysis, lab testing, and collaborative thinking. All the while, subtle elements are incorporated into the presentation to promote the engineering profession as inclusive, creative, open to all genders, and a force for societal / humanitarian innovation. The initiative is motivated in part by a desire to attract a broader audience of potential engineering candidates to the profession, particularly from underrepresented populations. Because the format of the classroom activities pack a large amount of content into a short time span, the sessions can easily be replicated at other schools, fitting in and complimenting existing learning objectives without much schedule disruption.

This paper reports on the approach that has been taken for these “4th Grade Engineering” sessions, the content of the presentations, details on the in-class activities, and qualitative observations based on student and parent reactions. The paper seeks to answer the question of whether brief short span classroom interventions can impact student perceptions on the engineering career. Furthermore, survey results are included which seek to demonstrate quantifiably the impacts that the engineering outreach has had on the students over the past four years. A survey was administered to about 150 students; roughly half of which have participated in the in-class engineering activities and half of which have not. The questions were designed to gage how much impact the sessions have had regarding knowledge of and attitudes toward the engineering profession. Both objective and subjective question forms were utilized.

Oliva, J. C., & Spence, D. (2019, June), 4th Grade Engineering – Building Upon the Curriculum of Science, Math, and Creativity to Inspire the Next Generation of Engineers (Evaluation) Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--31941

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