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Gearing Up For The Future: A K 12/University Partnership To Create An Engineering Magnet Elementary School

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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

Engineering in the Elementary School

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.636.1 - 13.636.16



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Paper Authors


Elizabeth Parry North Carolina State University

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ELIZABETH A. PARRY is currently the Project Director of RAMP-UP, a K12 math outreach program funded by the GE Foundation and the National Science Foundation GK-12 Program. She obtained her BS degree in engineering management with a minor in mechanical engineering from the University of Missouri-Rolla in 1983. After over 10 years with IBM, she has spent the last 20 years working on K-12 engineering and STEM issues and initiatives, particularly in support of underrepresented groups.

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Laura Bottomley North Carolina State University

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Dr. Laura J. Bottomley is the Director of Women in Engineering and Outreach for the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University.

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Elizabeth Miars Rachel Freeman Elementary School

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Elizabeth Miars is the principal of the Rachel Freeman Elementary School of Engineering in Wilmington, NC.

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Lizette Day Rachel Freeman Elementary School

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Lizzette Day is the STEM Coordinator for the Rachel Freeman Elementary School of Engineering in Wilmington, NC.

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

Gearing up for the future: A K- 12/University Partnership to Create an Engineering Magnet Elementary School

This paper will describe the genesis of a new engineering themed magnet school in New Hanover County, North Carolina. A parent choice school assignment plan was adopted by the school system two years ago, immediately creating several extremely high needs schools in the downtown area. One of these schools, Rachel Freeman Elementary, gets the majority of its students from a nearby subsidized housing project. This year, the school is over 85% African American and over 75% of the students qualify for the federal free and reduced price lunch program.

Rachel Freeman administrators made the decision to convert the school to an engineering magnet using the Engineering is Elementary curriculum developed by the Boston Museum of Science as its basis for engineering instruction. The College of Engineering at North Carolina State University was brought in as a professional development partner to train staff in project based learning, engineering problem solving, the Engineering is Elementary curriculum and the use of engineering notebooks. The team developed a summer workshop and ongoing regular curriculum support plan that is now in process.

The paper will describe the development of the partnership, the collaboration between these two partners, as well as others who have been instrumental in developing similar programs elsewhere in the country, and the progress to date. The burgeoning interest in engineering magnet programs, in North Carolina an elsewhere, makes this topic timely. Even though this school/university partnership is in its first year of full implementation, the need to convey progress to date is vital. Future publications will share evaluation results at all levels as well as progress.


One of the well-documented challenges faced by today’s K-12 educational system is the underrepresentation of minorities and low income students in higher level mathematics and science courses. The resulting effect of few students from these demographic groups pursuing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields is of enormous concern to many people both inside and outside of STEM. In addition the poor performance of American students, including our best and brightest, on international comparative assessments is alarming. But retention of knowledge is not the measure of most concern. Rather, it is the lackluster performance of American 15 year olds on the two most recent Programme for 1 International Student Assessment (PISA) assessments , which measures how well students can apply the knowledge they have gained, that is the strongest indicator of the need for major changes in the way K-12 students are taught.

The long time and accepted methods of pedagogy practiced in today’s classrooms were developed for an industrial revolution era society. Relying on the efficacy of traditional direct and deductive instruction to effectively teach all students is an erroneous generalization whose lack of e is demonstrated in lower No Child Left Behind (NCLB) test scores for certain

Parry, E., & Bottomley, L., & Miars, E., & Day, L. (2008, June), Gearing Up For The Future: A K 12/University Partnership To Create An Engineering Magnet Elementary School Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4010

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