Asee peer logo

Establishment Of An Engineering Education Program At Roanoke Valley Governor’s School

Download Paper |


2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Innovative K-12 Engineering Programs

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.690.1 - 12.690.11



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Dewey Spangler Virginia Tech

visit author page

Dewey Spangler is a visiting professor in the department of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech. Mr. Spangler holds an M.S. in Civil Engineering and a P.E. license in the Commonwealth of Virginia. He has served as faculty advisor to over one hundred mechanical engineering sophomores in the area of product design and has taught extensively in the areas of engineering mechanics, programming, GIS, engineering economics, project management, and contract law. His research interests involve aerodynamic flow control, mechanical design, K-12 engineering education, solid mechanics, and non-linear structural mechanics. He has ten years of full-time industry experience in steel manufacturing and has over eight years of part-time consulting experience in the areas of mechanical and civil design. He is currently pursuing a Ph. D. in the department of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech.

visit author page

author page

Olga Pierrakos Virginia Tech

Download Paper |

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

Establishment of an Engineering Education Program at Roanoke Valley Governor’s School Introduction

To address the growing need for engineering practitioners in the United States and to introduce engineering to secondary school students, Roanoke Valley Governor’s School (a.k.a. – RVGS) has initiated an innovative engineering education program. This program is adaptable to other governor school’s as well as to conventional, main stream, high school institutions. RVGS, which is similar to other Virginia governor’s schools, provides accelerated high school education for gifted learners. RVGS has a service area of twelve high schools and places a strong emphasis on science and mathematics. Thus, the new engineering program adds to the existing strong curriculum of the school. Prior to 2006, RVGS did not have a dedicated course in engineering. Now, a new course called Governor’s School Engineering (a.k.a. – GSEN) exists. This class provides a thorough introduction to the engineering professions and engineering mechanics for high school seniors via an asynchronous-distance learning format. In addition to meeting course requirements, students also participate in a regional robotics competition. Also new to RVGS and its new engineering program is the establishment of on-site computer workstations to assist students with engineering related course work and research. By participating in this education program, talented, hard working students are encouraged to stay in engineering since they learn important fundamental subjects in a well structured yet open minded and supportive environment.

Many high schools offer courses in engineering. Due to a lack of pre-requisite classes, these courses are usually introductory in nature and do not offer opportunities for students to study vector and calculus based engineering mechanics1. The course coverage in GESN is the same as that offered in a freshman or sophomore university level statics class, making it unique for a high school curriculum. Exposing high school students to engineering before they apply to a college or university is beneficial since the rigorous course load of a university program makes it difficult to complete an intended major without adding an extra year (or more) to the required time.2 The first-third of GSEN focuses on the engineering profession and quantitative methods. The last two-thirds of GSEN focuses on the instruction of statics of rigid bodies using vector algebra and calculus. University statics courses have traditionally been used to increase attrition in engineering programs. Often, students who complete such courses do not develop a proper foundation for additional engineering coursework. Many have to repeat this course or take it at a local community college that offers an atmosphere more conducive to learning. Some university students, frustrated with the pace and lack of personal attention, become disillusioned with engineering and pursue other professions. Providing the opportunity of in-depth engineering education at a high school level will encourage talented students to continue in this profession.

Due to the special environment provided by governor’s schools, there is a high level of confidence in student success in GSEN. Early on students are exposed to subjects that are usually reserved for instruction in the freshman college year of engineering. GSEN itself is comprised of two parts. Part One (approximately one-third of the course) emphasizes the engineering professions, problem solving techniques, and engineering design. Part Two addresses the study of statics of rigid bodies in two and three dimensions. This course is available to students at

Spangler, D., & Pierrakos, O. (2007, June), Establishment Of An Engineering Education Program At Roanoke Valley Governor’s School Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2979

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: © 2007 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