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Engineer Your World: An Innovative Approach to Developing a High School Engineering Design Course

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

K-12 and Pre-college Engineering Poster Session

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.533.1 - 25.533.20



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Paper Authors


Cheryl Farmer UTeachEngineering

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Cheryl Farmer is the founding Program Manager and Project Director of UTeachEngineering. Funded through a five-year, $12.5 million Math and Science Partnership grant from the National Science Foundation, UTeachEngineering offers a well-designed, well-rounded, design-based high school engineering course that can be implemented at low cost in virtually any setting, as well as a variety of professional development programs for pre-service and in-service teachers who want to add engineering to their teaching portfolio. Prior to co-founding UTeachEngineering, Farmer spent several years managing programs for both K-12 and higher education. Before entering higher education, Farmer worked as a project manager in the environmental field. Her education includes graduate work in mathematics and business administration and a B.A. in mathematics and liberal arts, with highest honors, from the University of Texas, Austin.

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David T. Allen University of Texas, Austin

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David Allen is the Gertz Regents Professor of chemical engineering, and the Director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Resources, at the University of Texas, Austin. He is the author of seven books and more than 200 papers primarily on urban air quality, the engineering of sustainable systems, and the development of materials for environmental and engineering education. The quality of his work has been recognized by the National Science Foundation, the AT&T Foundation, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors, and the state of Texas. He has won teaching awards at the University of Texas and UCLA. Allen received his B.S. degree in chemical engineering, with distinction, from Cornell University in 1979. His M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering were awarded by the California Institute of Technology in 1981 and 1983. He has held visiting faculty appointments at the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the Department of Energy.

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Leema Kuhn Berland University of Texas, Austin


Richard H. Crawford University of Texas, Austin

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Richard H. Crawford is a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Texas, Austin, and is the Temple Foundation Endowed Faculty Fellow No. 3. 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 joined the faculty of UT in Jan. 1990 and teaches mechanical engineering design and geometry modeling for design. Crawford's research interests span topics in computer-aided mechanical design and design theory and methodology, including research in computer representations to support conceptual design, design for manufacture and assembly, and design retrieval; developing computational representations and tools to support exploration of very complex engineering design spaces; research in solid freeform fabrication, including geometric processing, control, design tools, manufacturing applications; and design and development of energy harvesting systems. 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.

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Lisa Guerra NASA

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Lisa Guerra has 25 years experience in the NASA aerospace community. Guerra is currently working with the UTeachEngineering program. She recently completed a four-year assignment from NASA headquarters to establish a systems engineering curriculum at the University of Texas, Austin, as a pilot for national dissemination. Her efforts in systems engineering curriculum can be located at Guerra’s most recent position at NASA Headquarters was Director of the Directorate Integration Office in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. In that position, her responsibilities involved strategic planning, international cooperation, cross-directorate coordination, architecture analysis, and exploration control boards. Guerra also spent three years at the Goddard Space Flight Center as Program Integration Manager for future high-energy astrophysics missions, particularly the James Webb Space Telescope. She began her career at the Johnson Space Center working for Eagle Engineering and SAIC, focused on conceptual design of advanced spacecraft for human missions to the moon and Mars. Guerra earned a B.S in aerospace engineering and a B.A. in English from the University of Notre Dame. She received a master's of science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas, Austin.

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An Innovative Approach to Developing a High School Engineering Design Course Every year, thousands of American students enroll in high school engineeringcourses, but few of these courses are built on a foundation of solid research in thelearning sciences, couched in the context of a rigorous engineering design process andscaffolded to build engineering habits of mind. This paper describes the creation andpiloting of such a course. The team that designed this innovative high school course comprised universityengineering faculty, clinical engineering faculty (professionals with experience as bothpracticing engineers and secondary classroom teachers), engineering research fellows,and learning sciences faculty. With input from high school teachers and secondarycurriculum specialists, the team defined desired student learning outcomes, documentedthe constraints of a high school classroom, and identified course design principles basedon research in the learning sciences. The team then developed a scaffolded courseframework that builds a narrative of engineering and its role in the world with themesranging from the personal to the global and beyond. The acquisition of engineering design skills is central to the course experience. Bybenchmarking existing engineering design processes and measuring them againstprofessional experiences in industry and academia, the course development team wasable to produce a unique, multi-level characterization of the process. This process is“discovered” by the students at the beginning of the course and used to structure allsubsequent units. Accurate application of the engineering design process requires the acquisitionand application of engineering habits of mind that are central to the practice of theprofession. This course guides students to develop these engineering habits of mind(derived from key sources including the NAE report “Engineering in K-12 Education”and the NASA Systems Engineering Handbook). Each unit introduces students to a fewnew habits of mind while reinforcing those learned in previous units. In this way, thecourse helps students build their intellectual toolkit for addressing a series of structuredengineering design challenges. By the end of the course, students are prepared to solve amore open-ended “free design” challenge. The course is being piloted with more than 230 students in eight high schoolsduring the 2011-2012 academic year. The pilot schools range from rural to suburban tourban, with student populations between 200 and 2800 students. The smallest pilot classhas just seven students, while the largest has 30. Project faculty, staff, researchers andevaluators are gathering and documenting student performance and teacher feedbackfrom the pilot to inform course revisions. Early results are anticipated for inclusion in thispaper.

Farmer, C., & Allen, D. T., & Berland, L. K., & Crawford, R. H., & Guerra, L. (2012, June), Engineer Your World: An Innovative Approach to Developing a High School Engineering Design Course Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21291

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