June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.568.1 - 14.568.9
Enhancing Interactions Between Engineering Programs and the K-12 System Background
A problem facing the United States is the declining numbers of students expressing an interest, or majoring, in engineering. Recently the American College Testing organization reported that between 1992 and 2003 the percentage of high school students expressing an interest in majoring in engineering dropped from 9% to 6%1. In addition to the lack of numbers there is also the recurring problem of the lack of preparedness among US students in math and science2. Indeed, the state of preparedness of US students in science and mathematics at all levels has been under scrutiny following the release of the report "A Nation at Risk" in 19833. This concern has remained constant and was mentioned again in the National Academies Press publication “Educating the Engineer of 2020: Adapting Engineering Education to the New Century.”4 Recommendation 12 in this publication states “Engineering schools should lend their energies to a national effort to improve math, science, and engineering education at the K-12 level.” Proper student preparation is further complicated by the fact that the Committee for Economic Development reports that as many as 35% of the mathematics teachers and 45% of the biology teachers do not have majors or minors in these fields5. The lack of proper preparation may also be the result of a lack of opportunity for the teachers to periodically refresh their skills.
Many programs have been initiated throughout the country to address these issues. These can be crudely separated into two categories; those focusing on teacher preparedness and those focusing on student supply. There are many programs seeking to address the problem of teacher preparedness in science and mathematics. These range in size from small local efforts up to statewide programs such as the National Science Foundation Statewide Systemic Initiatives. While too numerous to mention here, a representative sampling of these programs can be found in such publications as the "NSF-Supported Undergraduate Faculty Enhancement Projects"6. Recent programs that target teacher preparedness include the “Train the Trainer” program7 and the “Pre-Engineering Instructional and Outreach” program.8
Programs seeking to address the problems of enrollments in engineering are even more numerous. The usual program in this category consists of a classroom/laboratory experience where high school students are exposed to engineering with the expectation that these students will then be more likely to enroll in engineering. Typical examples are the “Inspires Curriculum”,9 “Engineering Concepts Curriculum Project”,10 the “Academy Introduction Mission”,11 and the “Texas Pre-Freshman Engineering Program”12.
A program to address these issues was started in this department in 1993 with funding from the National Science Foundation. The concept for this activity arose from a conversation amongst chemical engineering faculty members on what influenced them to major in engineering. Almost uniformly the conclusion was that it was an influential teacher at the 5th through 9th grade level (usually in math or science) that got them started. While the influence of this teacher led to an interest in science how this ultimately resulted in majoring in engineering was never as clear cut.
Zollars, R., & Orlich, D. (2009, June), Enhancing Interactions Between Engineering Programs And The K 12 System Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5421
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