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Comparing What 8th vs. 10th Grade Students Take Away from Engineering Curricula Incorporated into their Physical Science Classroom

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering Division: Engineering Alignment with Core Curriculum (Physics)

Tagged Divisions

Engineering Physics & Physics and Pre-College Engineering Education Division

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Paper Authors


Camilla Arlina Nix Drexel University

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Camilla Nix is a doctoral candidate in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science, and Health Systems at Drexel University with a research focus on the fabrication of biomaterial coatings to prevent biofilm formation on medical devices. She is a current NSF GK-12 Fellow and previous LSAMP Bridge to Doctorate Fellow.

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Jared Andrew Ruddick Girard Academic Music Program

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Jared Ruddick has taught science at Girard Academic Music Program since 2008. He works to increase student interest in the sciences through partnerships with Gift of Life, Dow Chemical, University of Pennsylvania, and Drexel University that bring real life biological and physical science into classrooms.

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Jessica S. Ward Drexel University

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Jessica Ward serves as the Director of Operations for the DragonsTeach program. She previously worked in the College of Engineering at Drexel University for more than 9 years with a focus on recruitment, grant facilitation and STEM program management. During her tenure in the College of Engineering, Jessica successfully coordinated with multiple faculty members in the submission of approximately 600 grant proposals, including co-writing, editing and serving as the Program Manager for 5 awarded STEM education grants totaling more than $12M. She has collaborated with University offices and College faculty and professional staff in the facilitation of recruitment strategies to increase the quality and quantity of undergraduate and graduate enrollment, including supervising the planning and implementation of Open House and other recruitment events. Jessica now manages the day-to-day operations of the DragonsTeach program, including supporting the development of programs of study, student recruitment, fundraising and grant-writing, hiring and supervising staff and student workers as well as coordinating program evaluation.

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Adam K. Fontecchio Drexel University

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Dr. Adam Fontecchio is an Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Vice-Dean of the Graduate College, and Director of the Center for the Advancement of STEM Teaching and Learning Excellence (CASTLE). He is the recipient of a NASA New Investigator Award, the Drexel Graduate Student Association Outstanding Mentor Award, the Drexel University ECE Outstanding Research Achievement Award and the International Liquid Crystal Society Multimedia Prize. In 2003, he received a NASA/ASEE Summer Faculty Fellowship to research NEMS/MEMS adaptive optics in the Microdevices Laboratory at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Dr. Fontecchio received his Ph.D. in Physics from Brown University in 2002. He has authored more than 90 peer-reviewed publications.

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Incorporating engineering activities into physical science classrooms that directly show students the applications of learning about chemical bonds and structure, can be a wonderful way to stimulate interest in engineering career fields and motivate students to learn more about engineering disciplines. Investigating what these students take away from these lessons about how engineers apply those principles to addressing global problems can be a valuable resource in determining what type of content can be more effective in helping to motivate students towards these career paths. Additionally, investigating how students at different grade levels interpret the same type of curricula can inform what type of material is appropriate and how to better design curriculum meant to introduce students to the type of problems engineers face.

Utilizing the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenges as a theme for creating curriculum, students within 8th and 10th grade physical science will learn about various topics such as polymers, carbon sequestration, solar energy, and biotechnology. Students will be presented with a topic when a similar topic is discussed in their physical science classroom. For example, when students are learning about chemical bonds, students will learn about the properties of polymers and hydrogels and then investigate how this information can be applied to addressing the NAE Grand challenge “Engineer better Medicines”. These topics will be presented in this way in an effort to help students understand how engineers apply scientific principles to address the many types of challenges they face. Following the introduction and conclusion of a particular topic, students will be given a survey to assess the impact the activities had on their knowledge of the subject, how useful they feel the information is and how this information will impact their personal life.

In this paper, the main goal will be to compare what physical science students in the 8th and 10th grade take away from lessons that incorporate engineering activities and evaluate how these activities impact student learning, both in an academic and personal setting. We will look at student responses to questions that ask how they think these topics impact their life personally and academically and then evaluate how effective the lessons were in changing those views. We will also look at which activities were more effective in increasing interest and knowledge in STEM subjects, motivating students to learn more about the topic presented, and how likely the students will discuss and talk about these topics with friends and family outside of school. By gauging student responses in these areas, we can get an idea about how learning about engineering and knowledge in engineering subjects affect students on a daily basis and how we can better incorporate these subjects into daily science instruction. Information obtained from this analysis will be used in developing curricula that can be used across many grade levels.

Nix, C. A., & Ruddick, J. A., & Ward, J. S., & Fontecchio, A. K. (2016, June), Comparing What 8th vs. 10th Grade Students Take Away from Engineering Curricula Incorporated into their Physical Science Classroom Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26527

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