Asee peer logo

Modeling In Support Of The Engineering Design Process: Experiences In The Elementary Classroom

Download Paper |


2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Thinking, Reasoning & Engineering in Elementary School

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.880.1 - 15.880.13



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

John Bedward North Carolina State University

author page

Eric Wiebe North Carolina State University

author page

Lauren Madden North Carolina State University

author page

James Minogue North Carolina State University

author page

Mike Carter North Carolina State University

Download Paper |

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

Modeling in support of engineering design process: Experiences in the elementary classroom


Increasingly students of all ages should be engaged in science, engineering and computational activities as it is used across an increasing amount of subject areas. Inquiry-based elementary science education provides students with some opportunities to engage in authentic science but the subject area expertise required by teachers can be daunting and time consuming. Currently engineering education professionals are looking for opportunities to positively influence elementary (STEM) experience but the school curriculum demands limit their opportunity to expose students to the benefits of engineering problem solving. Through professional development we have instituted some graphic-based modeling techniques that support and extend current inquiry science curriculum activities and leverage the engineering design cycle. Research and findings done as part of a two-year NSF-supported project in elementary education will be presented, demonstrating how modeling activities in the form of student-produced drawings and notebook entries have been used to help explore scientific and mathematical concepts underlying engineering problems. Specifically, kit-based science and technology education activities that actively support engineering problem-based learning are used as a context for exploring the potential of these graphic-based modeling activities.


In recent years K-12 education was to provide a strong foundation in science and mathematics prior to formal engineering education in college. Increasingly, however, “pre-engineering” curricula have been developed as either stand-alone courses or supplemental experiences 1. To this end, a full or modified version of the engineering design cycle is employed as part of the context and process orientation of the activities 2. At the same time, kit-based elementary science education has become a prominent strategy among many school districts. An ongoing challenge for both science and engineering education is to provide rich and meaningful context based instruction that is connected to student’s real world experience by moving students beyond process skills to more problem based learning 3. The National Science Education Standards 4 advocates technology and design as central features to a strong inquiry-based science education. Whereas science helps learners to understand the natural world, the goal of technology is to extend human capabilities and make modifications in the world. Technology design involves the application of knowledge to new situations or goals, resulting in the development of new knowledge 5. However, recent research has demonstrated that difficulties of effectively bringing substantive math and science content to bear in middle and high school pre-engineering curricula 6 . These challenges for relevant math and science integration are even greater at the elementary level 7. With little room for new curriculum, there is a need to develop innovative instructional strategies that leverage existing inquiry-based science curriculum to support engineering education goals. We suggest graphic-based modeling as a mediating process between inquiry science and engineering design, providing students with a robust way of using and developing scientific abilities while engaging in engineering problem solving.

Over the years several engineering education research initiatives have developed engineering

Bedward, J., & Wiebe, E., & Madden, L., & Minogue, J., & Carter, M. (2010, June), Modeling In Support Of The Engineering Design Process: Experiences In The Elementary Classroom Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16082

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: © 2010 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