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Exposure to Early Engineering: A Parental Perspective

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Engaging Families and Exciting Girls with Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.692.1 - 22.692.14



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Paper Authors


Aikaterini Bagiati Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Having acquired a Diploma in Electrical Engineering and a Masters Degree in Advanced Digital Communication in the Aristotle University in Greece, and after having worked as an educator both in formal and informal settings for 10 years now, I have, since January 2008, started the Ph.D. Program in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University.
My research interests are : Developmental Engineering;
Engineering in PreK-3; Early Engineering Curriculum Development; Use of Art to enhance Engineering Design; Educational Software; and Educational Robotics.

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Demetra Evangelou Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Dr. Demetra Evangelou is Assistant Professor of Engineering Education in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She has a Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and international expertise in early childhood policy and research methods. Her current research focuses on developmental engineering, early education antecedents of engineering thinking, developmental factors in engineering pedagogy, technological literacy and human-artifact interactions. She is a member of Sigma Xi Science Honor Society, and in 2009 she was awarded the prestigious NSF CAREER Award.

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Jennifer Dobbs-Oates Purdue University

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Jennifer Dobbs-Oates, Ph.D., is assistant professor of developmental studies in the Department of Child Development and Family Studies at Purdue University. Her work centers on the development of young children in child-care centers and preschool settings and how those settings contribute to school readiness.

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Exposure to Early Engineering– a Parental PerspectiveEngineering thinking is a new area of exploration within engineering education that is based onthe developmental engineering hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, young children’sexploratory, inquisitive, and creative behaviors resemble traits that are highly desirable inengineering. Although science, technology, and math, three of the four disciplines comprisingSTEM, have an established presence in the early childhood education curriculum, when it comesto engineering in early education, there is a lack of understanding of what engineering is, and ofhow it can be integrated into early education. Attention to preschoolers’ exploration ofengineering-relevant concepts has recently increased and this knowledge will be useful ininforming and guiding current efforts to create developmentally appropriate engineering-relevantcurricula. A way to investigate the preschoolers’ engineering concept development is byobserving children’s instances of exploratory learning. The concept of exploratory learning is notnew when it comes to preschoolers’ education. Children often develop new knowledge whilebeing exposed to, interacting with and exploring familiar or unfamiliar artifacts or variousrepresentations of them. Artifacts are essential to engineering education since they can stimulatea large amount of hypotheses with respect to the origin, the design, the construction and thefunction of each artifact. Furthermore artifacts surround children from birth, so a level ofexposure and interaction exists on an everyday basis. Although the urgent necessity ofunderstanding developmental engineering and attempting early exposure has been acknowledgedby scholars, not all preschoolers’ parents seem to be sharing the same opinion. This is a mixed methods study of the perceptions of the parents of preschoolers about theirchildren’s exposure to engineering through formal and informal interactions with a set ofartifacts. Thirty-nine children, aged 4-5, attending 6 Midwestern preschools, and their parents,participated in the study. Children came from families of different socioeconomic status. Threeof the schools where data were collected were university-based preschools, while the other threewere Headstart programs. Parents completed a three-part questionnaire. The first part containedquestions that provided demographic information; the second part contained questions regardingspecific artifacts existence at home and the children’s mode and frequency of interaction withthem. The third part contained open-ended questions regarding the parents’ attitudes and beliefsabout engineering, their beliefs regarding children’s early exposure to engineering concepts andcontent at the preschool age, and the modes parents might use to expose their children toengineering concepts. Findings show that parents of different socioeconomic status differ bothin their opinion of the necessity of children’s early exposure to engineering, and in theireveryday use of the artifacts to expose preschoolers to engineering related concepts. When itcomes to the preschoolers’ modes of exploring or using the artifacts, they do not significantlyvary between children of different socioeconomic status.

Bagiati, A., & Evangelou, D., & Dobbs-Oates, J. (2011, June), Exposure to Early Engineering: A Parental Perspective Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17973

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