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Engineering Teaching Kits: Bringing Engineering Design Into Middle Schools

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Engineering in Middle Schools

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.655.1 - 12.655.11



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Paper Authors

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Larry Richards University of Virginia

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Christine Schnittka University of Virginia

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

Engineering Teaching Kits: Bringing engineering design into middle schools Abstract

Engineering Teaching Kits (ETKs) introduce engineering concepts and methods into existing middle school science and math classes. We identify topics from science, math, and technology that have interesting engineering applications, and then help students learn science and math in the context of engineering design. Each ETK includes real world constraints (budget, cost, time, risk, reliability, safety, and customer needs and demands), and each involves a design challenge that requires creativity and teamwork.

Over the past five years, we have developed and field – tested twenty - five Engineering Teaching Kits (ETKs). So far over 2000 middle school students and 30 middle school teachers have used these materials. The ten most popular and thoroughly tested ETKs are being revised and elaborated for national distribution in electronic form (CDs, DVDs, and Internet). Our goal is to make each ETK complete and readily useable by teachers without our presence.

In this paper, we review the processes and strategies for developing ETKs, and discuss how the structure of an ETK has evolved based on student performance and teacher feedback. We also provide three examples of successful ETKs.


The United States is suffering from a national crisis in science and math education. At the middle and high school level, our students perform poorly on standardized tests in comparison to other developed countries. And too few of them choose to pursue studies in engineering, math, or science at the university level. Engineering programs nationally have experienced declining enrollments for almost two decades. In addition, women and minorities are still under-represented in many technical fields, especially in engineering.

How can we recapture student interest in science, math, and engineering? How can we attract students from all segments of our diverse population? Middle school is the key; this is the time when many kids decide they are not interested in science, or not good at math. Most never get the chance to learn about engineering.

For the past five years, we have been working with middle school teachers to bring engineering teaching kits into their classrooms. An Engineering Teaching Kit (ETK) is a set of lesson plans focused on a well-defined set of concepts in science or math. What makes these lesson plans unique is the final Design Challenge. The students must use the knowledge and methods they have learned to design and build something.

Every ETK introduces the engineering design process, and each requires middle school students to design and build a device, machine, or system to achieve a goal. Each ETK includes hands-on experimentation, data gathering and summarization, and evidence-

Richards, L., & Schnittka, C. (2007, June), Engineering Teaching Kits: Bringing Engineering Design Into Middle Schools Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2990

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