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Engaging High School Students In Engineering, Science, And Technology Using Virtual Laboratories

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Think Outside the Box! K-12 Engineering Curriculum

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.539.1 - 14.539.19



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Paper Authors


Milo Koretsky Oregon State University

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Milo Koretsky is an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Oregon State University. He currently has research activity in areas related to thin film materials processing and engineering education. He is interested in integrating technology into effective educational practices and in promoting the use of higher level cognitive skills in engineering problem solving. Dr. Koretsky is a six-time Intel Faculty Fellow and has won awards for his work in engineering education at the university and national levels.

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Debra Gilbuena Oregon State University

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Debra Gilbuena is a graduate student in Business Administration and Chemical Engineering at Oregon State University. She currently has research in the areas of solar cell development through thin film technology, business plan writing and engineering education. Debra has 4 years of experience including positions in semiconductor manufacturing, propellant manufacturing, electronics cooling and sensor development, an area in which she holds a patent and has provided international consulting. Debra was awarded the Teacher's Assistant of the Year Award for the College of Engineering at Oregon State University for her work as a Teacher's Assistant in thermodynamics courses. She has interests in progressing the use and availability of alternative energies as well as enhancing the classroom experience of engineering students.

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Adam Kirsch Crescent Valley High School

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Adam Kirsch teaches physics, chemistry, engineering, and physical science at Crescent Valley High School. Mr. Kirsch’s eight years as a licensed professional mechanical engineer within the pulp and paper industry prior to entering the teaching profession strongly influences the emphasis within his classrooms. He feels that true learning is achieved when the learner is confronted with meaningful experiences. Traditional textbook instruction falls short of providing the engagement and open-endedness necessary to enable the learner to permanently integrate new understanding, particularly associated with math and science, within their cognitive framework. In his eight years as a high school teacher, Mr. Kirsch has often utilized the context of engineering and its focus upon problem solving to engage students in community-based projects.

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

Engaging High School Students in Engineering, Science and Technology using Virtual Laboratories


The Virtual Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) Laboratory was originally developed for capstone projects in experimental design to be used by seniors and graduate students in engineering at the university level. The objective of this study is to explore the use of the Virtual CVD Laboratory as a learning platform at the high school level. While the simulation can be transferred intact, level-appropriate curriculum and assignments were developed for 9th and 10th grade high school students. In 2007-08, the Virtual CVD Laboratory was used by 263 students in Introduction to Engineering and in seven sections of Chemistry at Crescent Valley High School (CVHS). The most prevalent theme in examining student work was the wide variety of responses elicited by this ill-structured project and the clever ways in which statistical methods were synthesized and integrated into student understanding. Based on this successful experience, two workshops have been delivered, a two day workshop for high school teachers, community college instructors, and university professors in Summer 2008 and a one day workshop exclusively for high school teachers in Fall 2008. This interaction between CVHS and Oregon State University can be considered as a model to promote engineering and systems thinking at the high school level.


With funding from the NSF CCLI and the Intel Faculty Fellows Programs, we have developed two virtual process laboratories, the Virtual Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) Laboratory and the Virtual BioReactor (BioR) Laboratory.1,2 In a virtual laboratory, simulations based on mathematical models implemented on a computer can replace the physical laboratory. Since real systems do not deterministically adhere to fundamental models, random and systematic process and measurement variation can be added to the output. There are reports of successful integration of this modality to improve content specific domain knowledge at the high school level, such as in biology,3 chemistry,4 and physics.5,6 Rather than being content specific, the virtual laboratories we have developed use the cognitive apprenticeship model of an engineering problem. They employ computer-aided technology to simulate complex industrial processes that are not accessible to students in a conventional university laboratory and allow future engineers to practice the skills they will need in industry, in much the same way a flight simulator is used for training pilots. The objective of the study presented in this paper is to develop and promote the use of one of these types of virtual laboratories, the Virtual CVD Laboratory, as a learning platform at the high school level. In order to construct and convey a meaningful project that high school teachers could reasonably implement, two major activities were used. First, a level- appropriate curriculum was developed and beta-tested in the introductory engineering and chemistry classes at Crescent Valley High School (CVHS). Second, that experience was used to develop and present workshops to high school teachers on how this tool can enhance student learning and, specifically, how they can implement the Virtual CVD laboratory into their curriculum.

Koretsky, M., & Gilbuena, D., & Kirsch, A. (2009, June), Engaging High School Students In Engineering, Science, And Technology Using Virtual Laboratories Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5019

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