June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
13.218.1 - 13.218.17
Arch Building for Kids What did they learn? What did we learn?
This paper will describe a teaching module that several senior architectural engineering students developed as their senior project. The teaching module targeted 5th or 6th grade students with the goal of creating an engineering outreach program that demonstrated a structural mechanics concept in a fun and interesting manner. The purpose of this paper is to describe the rationale behind the teaching module, and to document the changes we made to the module as we assessed its impact over several trial runs.
The premise of this research project was to devise an outreach program to 5th or 6th grade students that demonstrates an engineering idea in a fun, yet informative way. At the onset we decided against “trial and error” exercises where the students would be asked to create something strictly from their own imagination or intuition. Our argument against such tasks is that they do not accurately reflect the methods that engineers actually use. We also decided against a strictly “show and tell” approach, wherein an impressive experiment or demonstration is conducted to elicit a strong audience reaction. Our argument against the “show and tell” approach was that the “show” part may stick in the children’s memories, but the “tell” part can be easily forgotten.
This project was not only an outreach effort designed to get children interested in the engineering and design of buildings, but it was also a research endeavor undertaken by three architectural engineering seniors as their culminating senior project. As such, they were charged with creating several assessment devices to gauge the effectiveness of their proposed activities. The activities were meant to take place in approximately a one hour time slot.
Our research had a similar overall agenda as did the study by Chakravartula et al.1 insofar as we sought to have our university students thoroughly digest the material at hand and create new means of presenting the subject matter and then to act as teachers in a classroom setting with children. We also found motivation from the study of Elton et al.2 who sought to demonstrate “some interesting and mysterious, but explainable experiments” to a K-12 audience. The key motivator here was the term “explainable,” we really did not want anything to come across as random or inexplicable. The overall structure of our research project, and its credence as a senior capstone project focused on research questions that were similar to Moskal et al.3, namely “how are children impacted by an outreach program”?, and “how are the college students and faculty impacted by the outreach program”?. We also noted that Jeffers et al.4 carefully analyzed similar research questions in outreach programs, namely “how is undergraduate student development positively affected by such outreach programs”? The Jeffers study explored this and other research questions such as “how do outreach program ultimately affect increases in engineering enrollment”? We liked the assessment tools suggested by Poole et al.5 namely
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