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Body By Design: A Model For K 12 Outreach In Engineering Education

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Exemplary Outreach Programs

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.236.1 - 15.236.12

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Paper Authors

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Lisa Pruitt University of California, Berkeley

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Eli Patten University of California at Berkeley

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Sara Atwood University of California, Berkeley

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Body by Design: A model for K-12 outreach in engineering education Abstract

There is a strong need to enhance recruitment and diversity of students in the field of engineering. Outreach to the K-12 sector is key to improving the pipeline of students who wish to pursue an education in engineering. Countless children are interested in engineering technology yet they often lack the mentorship, educational opportunities, or role models necessary to make this a realistic career path. The educational system further narrows the selection of students in engineering as most technologically rich courses are delivered in a sequential manner with no active exercises or connection to the real world. This approach places children who learn in global, sensing, visual, and active modes at a disadvantage and restricts opportunities for diversity. Engineering outreach that provides interactive projects and addresses the spectrum of learning styles can enhance both interest and diversity in engineering. A model for K-12 outreach teaching has been incorporated into an undergraduate engineering course entitled, Structural Aspects of Biomaterials. As part of this course, the undergraduates participate in a semester-long project, entitled “Body by Design,” in collaboration with a children’s museum and a 5th grade elementary science class. At the start of the course, the undergraduates evaluate their own personal learning styles (active vs. reflective; intuitive vs. sensing; sequential vs. global; visual vs. verbal). Students are then matched up in groups of four with balanced learning styles, major, and gender. The undergraduates are simultaneously enrolled in a skills laboratory that provides a framework for oral and written communication, teamwork, and effective teaching styles. Within this framework, the undergraduates are continually surveyed and assessed on the learning outcomes for the course. The objective of the outreach project is to interest more children in the field of engineering. Undergraduate groups are assigned a medical device with the task of teaching a technical concept associated with the medical implant to the K-12 learner using an interactive scientific exhibit that addresses all facets of learning. The benefit is that children experience engineering in an interactive environment that is accessible regardless of learning style. The K-12 learners are assessed using an informal interview process at the museum. This program could be implemented as a model for other engineering outreach projects. The objective of the K-12 outreach project is to interest more children in the field of engineering while strengthening the engineering and communication skill sets of the undergraduates. This outreach project provides a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to demonstrate their grasp of the subject matter while inspiring children to have a renewed interest in math, science and technology and the goal of becoming an engineer.

Motivation for K-12 outreach

Outreach to the K-12 sector is essential for the technological advancement of our society and for diversity enhancement in engineering. Many children are naturally interested in engineering technology but they may not have the mentorship, educational opportunities, or role models needed to pursue this field of study.1 Further, most technologically rich courses, both at K-12 and undergraduate levels, are taught in a format that favors certain learning styles. Such classes are typically delivered in a sequential manner (derivations of formulas, etc) with little or no active exercises in the classroom, and are often disconnected from societal needs or real world

Pruitt, L., & Patten, E., & Atwood, S. (2010, June), Body By Design: A Model For K 12 Outreach In Engineering Education Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky.

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