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How Fifth Grade Students Apply Data Analysis and Measurement in Engineering Design Challenges (Fundamental)

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Best Papers in K-12 / Pre-college Division

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.857.1 - 26.857.12



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Paper Authors


Aran W Glancy University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

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Aran W. Glancy is a Ph.D. candidate in STEM Education with a focus on mathematics education at the University of Minnesota. Aran is currently working on supporting elementary and middle school teachers in integrating science and mathematics through engineering design. Additionally, he is investigating modeling within K-12 mathematics classrooms, and is also interested in enhancing mathematics education through the integration of science, engineering, and computer programming.

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Tamara J Moore Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Tamara J. Moore, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering Education and Director of STEM Integration in the INSPIRE Institute at Purdue University. Dr. Moore’s research is centered on the integration of STEM concepts in K-12 and postsecondary classrooms in order to help students make connections among the STEM disciplines and achieve deep understanding. Her work focuses on defining STEM integration and investigating its power for student learning.

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Siddika Selcen Guzey Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Dr. Guzey is an assistant professor of biology and biology education at Purdue University. Her research and teaching focus on integrated STEM Education.

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Karl A Smith Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Emeritus Professor of Civil Engineering, Morse-Alumni Distinguished Teaching Professor, Executive Co-Director STEM Education Center, and Faculty Member, Technological Leadership Institute at the University of Minnesota; and Cooperative Learning Professor of Engineering Education, School of Engineering Education, at Purdue University. E-mail:, web:

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How Fifth Grade Students Apply Data Analysis and Measurement in Engineering Design Challenges (Fundamental)As countless newspaper headlines can attest, we are living in the age of Big Data. Increasingly,the ability to work with, understand, and interpret data is becoming more of a necessity, not justfor engineers and scientists, but also for the general public. Data analysis and measurementskills have had a place in K-12 mathematics and science curricula since at least the earlier 1990s,and they continue to gain stature in those realms. Unfortunately, it appears that most students areleaving high school ill prepared to make sense of the data they encounter in the media let alonewhat they might encounter in a STEM career.Researchers in statistics education and mathematics education have made much progress indetermining what key concepts students need to know, when they should be introduce to them,and best practices for teaching these concepts; however, this research has also revealed thatstudents’ ability to apply these ideas is highly dependent on the context in which it is beingapplied. Despite the use of similar concepts and techniques, data analysis tasks in science appearvery different than those in engineering or social contexts. This study contributes to thisliterature by examining, in detail, the processes by which students use data analysis andmeasurement skills in one specific context, namely within an engineering design challenge.Engineers use data in almost all aspects of their work. Data are used to weigh the relativeimportance of constraints. They are used to make design decisions, and ultimately engineers usedata to test their design solutions. Engineering as a career demands a certain level of fluencywith data analysis and measurement techniques, and as such, a well rounded K-12 engineeringeducation should provide students with opportunities to develop and apply their statistical skills.The curricular unit on which this study focuses was designed to provide these opportunities forthe students by explicitly asking them to test and evaluate their design solutions with data.Using a case study methodology, this study follows four groups of students as they work throughthe testing, evaluation, and redesign phase of an engineering design challenge. The students arefifth graders in an urban, mid-western school district. The engineering design challenge is partof a unit in their science classes which focuses on physical science content, specifically simplemachines and forces. Students develop a device that will launch a ball of clay accurately andconsistently. Once designed, they test the accuracy and precision of their device and use thisinformation to redesign and in the final presentation of their product. Using qualitative methodsbased in grounded theory, this case study analyses the ways in which students apply (or do notapply) statistical concepts as they attempt to collect, organize, and make sense of the data fromtheir tests. Specifically, it identifies obstacles and affordances to the students’ success with dataanalysis tasks in engineering contexts. Additionally, these findings are compared to findings inother contexts, and implications for supporting students’ development of data analysis andmeasurement skills in engineering contexts are made.

Glancy, A. W., & Moore, T. J., & Guzey, S. S., & Smith, K. A. (2015, June), How Fifth Grade Students Apply Data Analysis and Measurement in Engineering Design Challenges (Fundamental) Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24194

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: © 2015 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