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Introducing Engineering At The Middle School And High School Level

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.830.1 - 11.830.6



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Paper Authors


Donald Orlich Washington State University

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Don Orlich graduated from the University of Montana in 1953 with a B.A. in Education. He received a Masters of Science Education in 1959 from the University of Utah and an Ed.D. in 1963 from the University of Montana. He taught five years as an elementary and junior high science teacher in Butte, MT before taking a faculty position at Idaho State University. From 1967 to 1994 he was a faculty member in the Department of Education at Washington State University. He currently works at the Science, Mathematics, Engineering Education Center at Washington State University.

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William Thomson Washington State University

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Bill Thomson graduated from the Pratt Institute in 1960 with a Bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering. After receiving an M.S. in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University in 1962 he received his Ph.D. from the University of Idaho in 1969. He was on the Chemical Engineering faculty at the University of Idaho from 1969 to 1981 rising to the rank of full professor. In 1981 he became the Department Chair in Chemical Engineering at Washington State University, a position he held until 1993. In addition he has worked with Esso Research, AVCO Research, the Union Oil Research Company and the Stanford Research Institute. He currently is a full professor at Washington State University.

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Richard Zollars Washington State University

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Dick Zollars graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1968 with a Bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering. He attended the University of Colorado where he received an M.S. in Chemical Engineering in 1972 and a Ph.D. in 1974. After working for three years with the Union Carbide Corporation he returned to the University of Colorado in 1977 as a faculty member in Chemical Engineering. Since 1978 he has been on the Chemical Engineering faculty at Washington State University. He has also worked at the Laramie Energy Research Center (DOE) for a summer and at the National Science Foundation for a year as a Program Director.

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

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.

New Program

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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