June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.830.1 - 11.830.6
Linking Middle Schools and High Schools with Engineering Programs Abstract
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. While many programs address these problems there is a growing movement towards teaming college faculty with K-12 teachers as a means of addressing these issues. Among these programs is the recent “Research Experiences for Teachers (RET)” program initiated at the National Science Foundation. This paper will describe activities at Washington State University aimed at creating closer ties between the engineering faculty and K-12 teachers in an effort to address both student interest and teacher preparedness issues.
A program focusing on addressing these issues was undertaken in the Chemical Engineering Department at Washington State University in 1993 with a National Science Foundation grant (Grant # ESI-9254358) from the Division of Elementary, Secondary, and Informal Education. The genesis of this concept was 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 (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. To eliminate this uncertainty we submitted a proposal to bring math or science teachers to the WSU campus for a summer to work along side engineers in their research laboratories to get a clear idea of what engineers do. The teachers, in addition to strengthening their math and science backgrounds, then would serve as spokespersons for engineering in their respective classrooms. During the five years that this program was in operation, a total of 67 teachers from throughout the United States participated. Of the approximately 100 engineering faculty at WSU, 19 served as mentors (some multiple times) during the teacher’s stay.
Our experiences with this prior grant led to the submission of an RET proposal granted in 2004 (Grant #EEC-0338868). The experiences gained in the prior NSF grant helped guide the development of the current RET activity. There are three primary goals for the program: 1) enhance the math/science skills of the teachers in the K-12 system, 2) increase the number of students interested in engineering as a major, and 3) provide a means by which faculty at all levels who are concerned about this problem can communicate. While the first item had clearly been addressed in our prior activity we did not feel that the latter two issues had been adequately resolved. The steps we took to improve on this situation will be outlined below.
Orlich, D., & Thomson, W., & Zollars, R. (2006, June), Introducing Engineering At The Middle School And High School Level Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1174
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