Asee peer logo

Curriculum Exchange: Middle School Students Go Beyond Blackboards to Solve the Grand Challenges

Download Paper |


2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

CEIII Wrapup

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.360.1 - 23.360.10



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Austin Bates Talley University of Texas, Austin

visit author page

Austin Talley is a Doctoral Candidate in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Texas at Austin, a Cockrell Fellow, and a licensed Professional Engineer. His research focus is in design methodology with Universal Design and engineering education. He has received his B.S. from Texas A&M University and M.S.E. from The University of Texas at Austin.

visit author page


Richard H. Crawford University of Texas, Austin

visit author page

Dr. Richard H. Crawford is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin and is the Temple Foundation Endowed Faculty Fellow No. 3. He is also Director of the Design Projects program in Mechanical Engineering. He received his B.S.M.E. from Louisiana State University in 1982, and his M.S.M.E. in 1985 and Ph.D. in 1989, both from Purdue University. He teaches mechanical engineering design and geometry modeling for design. Dr. Crawford’s research interests span topics in computer-aided mechanical design and design theory and methodology. Dr. Crawford is co-founder of the DTEACh program, a ”Design Technology” program for K-12, and is active on the faculty of the UTeachEngineering program that seeks to educate teachers of high school engineering.

visit author page


Christina Kay White University of Texas, Austin

visit author page

Dr. Christina White completed her Doctoral degree from Teachers College, Columbia University where she studied engineering education. She is the director of the National Academy of Engineering Longhorn Grand Challenges Scholars & K12 Partners Program at The University of Texas at Austin. Dr. White is also the director of an outreach program called Design, Technology, & Engineering for All Children (DTEACh) which has reached more than 1000 teachers and 85,000 students. She is the lead inventor on a patent for assistive technology. Her current research includes innovative design-based pedagogy, humanitarian engineering, and ways to attract and retain traditionally underrepresented groups in engineering education.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Curriculum Exchange: Middle School Students Go Beyond Blackboards to Solve the Grand Challenges AbstractOur program, ________________, offers an integrated approach to engaging middle schoolstudents, in activities that improve awareness and understanding of a range of STEM college andcareer pathways. The program is framed within the Grand Challenges of the 21st Centuryidentified by the National Academy of Engineering. We have chosen robotics technology,particularly LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT, as the vehicle for our out-of-class designchallenges. This is a natural extension of our over ___ years experience teaching robotics andautomation professional development workshops for K-12 teachers. LEGO® MINDSTORMS®offers particular advantages for after school design activities, as the product supports rapidconstruction of prototypes, which fosters iterative design solutions. Additionally, theprogramming aspect of robotics offers an engaging introduction to skills needed for success ininformation technology and other STEM fields. We have found this dual nature of robotics(hardware and software) accommodates the diverse interests of middle school students.The focus of this paper is the curriculum used for our Innovation Clubs. The Clubs focus on twoNAE 21st Century Grand Challenges dealing with exploring alternative energy and restoring andimproving urban infrastructure. The Innovation Clubs use the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXTrobotics kits, augmented with other a technical resources to focus on water as well as solar andwind energy. We integrate additional hardware, such as solar panels, wind turbines, andadditional sensors, and teach ways to apply new software techniques as students evolve in theirprogramming. Each of the design teams in the Innovation Clubs participates in their own open-ended design problem within the context of the Grand Challenges. For example, in theInnovation Clubs they design, build, and program robots to creatively solve issues ofinfrastructure and energy that deal with the preventative and reactionary measures needed forhurricanes. In all of our informal educational experiences, design teams research and presenttheir chosen design projects using multiple media to share their ideas and problem-solvingstrategies. Overall, students are identifying and seeking innovative solutions to some of ourworld’s most pressing problems by designing engineering solutions. The curriculum includes thedetailed structured LEGO® builds, specialized programming, curriculum design prompts,challenge mats, and professional development documentation. The goal of this paper is todisseminate to others the curriculum resources that were developed for this program.

Talley, A. B., & Crawford, R. H., & White, C. K. (2013, June), Curriculum Exchange: Middle School Students Go Beyond Blackboards to Solve the Grand Challenges Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19374

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2013 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015