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Engineering And The Media: Building A New Relationship

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Public Engineering of Engineering, K12 Standards, and Overview

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.499.1 - 13.499.10



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Paper Authors


Tylisha Baber Michigan State University

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At the time this paper was written, Dr. Tylisha Baber was serving as a National Academies Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellow. She earned a B.S. degree in chemical engineering from North Carolina State University and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Michigan State University. Tylisha’s dissertation focused on the design and implementation of a biomass conversion process for improving the fuel properties of biodiesel. She is currently an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Chemical Engineering at North Carolina A&T State University.

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Norman Fortenberry National Academy of Engineering

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Norman Fortenberry is the founding director of the Center for the Advancement of Scholarship on Engineering Education (CASEE) at the National Academy of Engineering. CASEE is a collaborative effort dedicated to achieving excellence in engineering education--education that is effective, engaged, and efficient. CASEE pursues this goal by promoting research on, innovation in, and diffusion of effective models of engineering education.

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

Engineering and the Media: Building a New Relationship

Abstract Today’s youth are tightly integrating into their lives the use of digital media such as television, radio, computers, the Internet, and cell phones. Given the affinity of “digital natives” for such technologies, new media presentations as well as educational games that incorporate engineering design and/or analysis simulations may provide a way to bridge the gap between abstract concepts or theoretical knowledge and practical skills. This paper reviews images of engineering presented in videogames and in narrative television series. It also reports on the results of an October 2007 workshop that looked at the viability of using digital media as a means of engaging pubic audiences.


Today’s youth are integrating digital technologies- such as television, computers, the Internet, cell phones- into their daily lives. Studies show that the total amount of media content young people are exposed to each day has increased by more than an hour since 2000, with most of the increase coming from video games and computers[1]. Given their affinity for digital technologies, educational games that incorporate engineering design and/or analysis simulations may provide a way to bridge the gap between abstract concepts or theoretical knowledge and practical skills. Similarly, engaging narratives on broadcast television, the web, and other new media (e.g., cell phones) may prove avenues by which to increase awareness of engineering as a career field. Many in the engineering community have sought to duplicate the success of CSI in building interest in a career field.

Engineering is not Science

In looking at images of engineering in the media, it is important to draw a distinction between engineering and the natural sciences. The natural sciences are broadly concerned with the acquisition of fundamental knowledge through experimental investigation, observation, identification, and theoretical explanation of natural phenomena, with reference to the material and physical world. Physics, chemistry, and biology try to understand, describe, and explain nature through theories, models, laws, and facts about the physical world.

Engineering is the process of altering the location, state, and/or form of matter, energy, or information in service of human desires. Engineering is the application of scientific knowledge to practical ends such as the design of a device, system, or process to solve a problem, meet a need, or improve the original design. The experimental study of engineering involves the use of models and testing devices[2].

Maintaining cognizance of the distinction between engineering and science is critical to our effort to understand which media images may be legitimately regarded as highlighting engineering. We begin our survey by looking at video games.

Baber, T., & Fortenberry, N. (2008, June), Engineering And The Media: Building A New Relationship Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3146

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: © 2008 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