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Applying K 8 Engineering Education To Graduate Student Studies

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Mentoring Women and Minorities

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.231.1 - 8.231.7



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Paper Authors

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Patrick Dunfey

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Julie Salisbury

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Erik Rushton

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Brian Gravel

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

Session 2355

Applying K-8 Engineering Education to Graduate Student Studies

Patrick Dunfey, Brian Gravel, Erik Rushton, Julie Salisbury

Tufts University Center for Engineering Educational Outreach


The typical graduate student experience includes a research or teaching assistant position at some point throughout the course of study. Traditional positions such as these are focused on graduate level class work and research. Alternative experiences, such as elementary and middle school level engineering outreach, are rare but offer a surprising number of benefits to the graduate student. Teaching engineering to K-8 students presents challenges usually unfamiliar to a graduate student who has spent the last four or more years in a rigorous technical engineering program. Simple concept communication and non-technical explanations become necessary for any level of success. Rising to these challenges produces situations uncharacteristic of the typical graduate student experience. These situations strengthen communication skills and require development of new problem solving methods.

In 1998, the Tufts University Center for Engineering Educational Outreach received a National Science Foundation GK-12 grant. This grant allowed for the placement of graduate student fellows in K-12 classrooms with the intent of infusing engineering into the existing science and technology curriculum. Their primary role is to not only develop content knowledge for the teacher but various non-traditional skills for the graduate student as well. The fellowship is a twelve month position open to both Masters and PhD level graduate students. There are eight fellows in the program, two from computer science and six from various engineering disciplines. Each fellow is assigned to a classroom/school, working closely with a single teacher or small group of teachers. Fellow participation ranges from working with in a single grade level to working with a range of grade levels.

Role of a GK-12 Fellow

The work completed by the GK-12 fellow involves teaching activities in addition to writing and assessment aspects. A major role and motivation for having the fellow in the classroom is to be a technical resource for the teacher. This allows for content development as well as instruction to the students from a technical background. The fellow becomes a “real-time” resource to answer questions and clarify any concepts that a teacher not specifically trained in science or engineering may have. Through this resource position, vital communication skills are developed that will be further discussed at length. Another key role for the fellow is to develop activities that are integrated into existing science and technology curriculum. In order to best fill this role, the fellow must learn to write to a variety of audiences. The last major role of the fellow is

“Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Dunfey, P., & Salisbury, J., & Rushton, E., & Gravel, B. (2003, June), Applying K 8 Engineering Education To Graduate Student Studies Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12081

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