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Developing And Assessing Integrated Mechanical Engineering Curriculum For Middle School Students

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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

Trends in Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.399.1 - 8.399.12



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Paper Authors

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Mausumi Syamal

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Gary Ybarra

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

Session 1566

Developing and Assessing Integrated Mechanical Engineering Curriculum for Middle School Students

Mausumi N. Syamal and Gary A. Ybarra Duke University Pratt School of Engineering, Durham, NC

Abstract – Our society is becoming increasingly dependent on technology. The use of cell phones and mp3 players permeates every age group and socio-economic stratum. The creation of new devices that improve human life quality is the essence of engineering. Yet, the vast majority of the population does not even know what engineering is. In a 1998 Poll 61% of adults claimed that they were “not well informed” about engineering. This statistic is the result of the fact that engineering is generally not introduced in either elementary or secondary education. Exposing elementary and middle school students to engineering concepts will increase awareness of the general population and potentially lead to more children pursuing careers in engineering fields. This project introduces students at Rogers-Herr Middle School in Durham, North Carolina, to mechanical engineering fundamentals throughout the course of a school year. Our goal is to create an integrated curriculum accompanied by hands-on projects and weekly quizzes. Teaching is structured with weekly lectures accompanied by several interactive demonstrations and experiments. Students are given weekly hands-on projects that are evaluated and assessed based on their incorporation of the concepts presented in lecture. In addition, students are given short, individual, weekly quizzes that contain problems that rely on a conceptual understanding of the material presented during the previous week. The topics covered are: heat transfer, fluid dynamics and velocity/acceleration. Projects include mousetrap cars, catapults and Rube-Goldberg machines. This paper presents a detailed description of the program curriculum, the assessment instruments and conclusions regarding program effectiveness.


For many young students across the nation, the notion of becoming an engineer is foreign and formidable. Yet most of these students are unable to accurately describe what an engineer does, perhaps reinforcing the old saying that “we fear what we do not know”. Traditionally, early American schools taught students essential academic and trade skills. Students were instructed on proper methods of maintaining the farm, homemaking and even apprenticeship skills. Yet why are students today, not taught the basics of what is a rapidly growing field in the world? Recently, current programs have been implemented that attempt to bridge secondary education with engineering fundamentals, such as the Techtronics1 Program at Duke University, and the Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Syamal, M., & Ybarra, G. (2003, June), Developing And Assessing Integrated Mechanical Engineering Curriculum For Middle School Students Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12470

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