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Introducing Middle School Students to Engineering and the Engineering Design Process

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Middle School Programs

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.846.1 - 25.846.10



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Paper Authors

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Linda S. Hirsch New Jersey Institute of Technology

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Suzanne L. Berliner-Heyman New Jersey Institute of Technology


John D. Carpinelli New Jersey Institute of Technology

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John D. Carpinelli is a professor of electrical and computer engineering and Executive Director of the Center for Pre-college Programs at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He has served as coordinator of activities at NJIT for the Gateway Engineering Education Coalition and as a member of the Coalition’s Governing Board. He previously chaired NJIT’s Excellence in Teaching Awards Committee and is Past Chair of the University Master Teacher Committee.

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Howard S. Kimmel New Jersey Institute of Technology

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Howard Kimmel is professor of chemical engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, N.J., and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs. Kimmel has been a leader in the area of pre-college programs from the inception of the Center in 1980. He has directed in-service training programs for pre-college teachers for 35 years that are designed to improve the teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in secondary and elementary schools, and to improve and enrich science and mathematics curricula and the implementation of standards-based instruction in K-12 classrooms. Kimmel has had numerous NSF grants and state grants focusing on professional development, curriculum, and assessment. In addition, he is a member of the assessment committee for chemical engineering.

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Introducing Middle School Students to Engineering and the Engineering Design ProcessAbstractThe demand for a highly qualified workforce in the information and knowledge age of thecurrent global economy continues to put pressure on institutions of higher education toproduce more engineers. However, the number of students choosing to study engineeringcontinues to fall short of the actual and projected needs. Research on engineering recruitmentindicates that most potential college students do not really know what engineers do, areunaware of the benefits that engineering provides people in their daily lives, and have fewadults discussing careers in engineering with them. As a result, they never develop an interestin engineering, nor are they prepared academically to study engineering in college. One ofthe more critical reasons for this is that most students, particularly those fromunderrepresented populations in urban school districts, are not exposed to engineering duringtheir K-12 studies. High-quality curricular materials related to engineering, particularly formiddle school students are lacking and most teachers have not been trained to incorporateengineering topics into their curriculum and instruction. As a result, increasing the presenceof engineering in K-12 education, especially through the application of the engineeringdesign process, has become a high priority.The ____ at ____ offers a variety of summer programs designed to increase high achievingmiddle school students’ interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering andmathematics (STEM). Programs such as these can be instrumental in informing youngstudents about careers in STEM, especially engineering, and help ensure they receive theacademic background required for college study. One of the programs recruits fifth, sixthand seventh grade students from traditionally underserved and typically underrepresentedpopulations who would not otherwise be exposed to engineering during their middle schoolyears.The academic curriculum is aligned with state Core Curriculum Content Standards. Inaddition to classroom lessons, students participate in hands-on activities, laboratoryexperiments, and group activities including team-build exercises, and go on field trips. Thestudents visit research facilities where they are introduced to engineers and have theopportunity to see first-hand the career options available to them if they should choose tostudy engineering. On the first day of the program students are presented with a scenario thatcontains a core problem to be solved. Students are assigned to work in teams of four, receivean introduction to the Engineering Design Process (EDP), are taught how to apply the EDP indeveloping and testing a prototype, and are required to make a presentation about theirsolution to the core problem. Presentations must include an outline of how the EDP wasapplied and a demonstration of their prototype. Programs such as this provide aninterdisciplinary, project-based learning environment that draws mostly on math, science, andtechnology and offers major benefits to education at all levels, as it fosters essential 21stcentury skills such as problem-solving, communication, teamwork, independence,imagination, creativity. Preliminary data analysis indicates most students demonstratedadequate understanding of the engineering design process by the end of the program.

Hirsch, L. S., & Berliner-Heyman, S. L., & Carpinelli, J. D., & Kimmel, H. S. (2012, June), Introducing Middle School Students to Engineering and the Engineering Design Process Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21603

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