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A Television Program To Engage Children In Engineering Design

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Potpurri Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.115.1 - 9.115.8



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Paper Authors

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Daniel Frey

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Marisa Wolsky

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session # 3425

A Television Program to Engage Children in Engineering Design

Daniel D. Frey, Marisa Wolsky, Nathan Ball, Derik Thomann, MIT / WGBH / MIT / MIT


This paper describes a television program entitled LAZYBONES which is currently under development by WGBH, a leading producer of children’s (e.g. ZOOM) and science programming (e.g. NOVA). The purpose of the program is to allow children, especially 10- to 14-year-olds, to become intellectually engaged in engineering design. By this means, it is hoped the program will improve technology literacy and encourage more young people to pursue engineering as a profession. The concept of the show is to have teams compete in automating everyday tasks in whimsical ways. The contestants will use technology such as microcontrollers and machine tools, providing the viewing audience needed exposure to the inner workings of modern engineering.

This paper first presents the motivation for the new television program and the structure of the development team. The concept of the show is then articulated and an early feasibility test is described.


Providing children positive images of engineering has never been more critical. Engineers have led a technological revolution that has affected all our lives. Yet, children generally do not understand how most technologies work, how technology is used in everyday products, or what an engineer does. The National Academy of Engineering committee on technological literacy noted these trends and suggested a possible cause:

Most people have very few direct, hands-on connections to technology, except as finished goods. They do not build the devices they use, tinker with them to improve their performance, or repair them when they break. Because of this lack of engagement, people today learn relatively little about technologies through direct experience.1

Coupled with the lack of public understanding is the dearth of students, especially women and minorities, studying engineering in school and pursuing engineering careers. In 2002, fewer than six percent of the 1.1 million seniors who took the ACT Assessment college entrance and placement exam planned to study engineering in college.2 This is down from a high of nearly nine percent in 1992. In “Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education"

Frey, D., & Wolsky, M. (2004, June), A Television Program To Engage Children In Engineering Design Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13434

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