Asee peer logo

Motivating Middle Schoolers to Be Engineers

Download Paper |


2022 Spring ASEE Middle Atlantic Section Conference


Newark, New Jersey

Publication Date

April 22, 2022

Start Date

April 22, 2022

End Date

April 23, 2022

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Howard S. Kimmel New Jersey Institute of Technology

visit author page

HOWARD KIMMEL is Professor-Emeritus of Chemical Engineering and Retired Executive Director of the Center for Pre-College Programs at New Jersey Institute of Technology. In 2019 Dr. Kimmel was a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, one of 15 awardees nationwide. In addition, Dr. Kimmel has received numerous awards in recognition of his service, including: ASEE 1985 Vincent Bendix Minorities in Engineering Award, and ASEE CENTENNIAL MEDALION for ”Significant Lasting Impact on Engineering Education,” 1993. The NJIT Foundation Overseers Public and Institute Service Award, 1981 (First Recipient) and in 2005; and the Allan R. Cullimore Distinguished Service Award (NJIT) for 1991.

visit author page


Gale Tenen Spak New Jersey Institute of Technology

visit author page

Gale Tenen Spak established Build Their Future, LLC in 2019 to provide talent and workforce STEM and soft skill development training and education consultancy appropriate for “cradle to gray” generations based on what she has learned over 26 years at NJIT. Between 1992 and 2018, Dr. Spak was Associate Vice President of Continuing and Distance Education at New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark New Jersey. Through her oversight of NJIT’s Division of Continuing Professional Education, she has had extensive experience in the areas of professional STEM workforce development and continuing education programming which are topics about which she writes and presents broadly. Her experiences include managing, developing, marketing, proposal writing, evaluating and implementing academic and non-credit programs for working professionals and job seekers who require new education and training to keep their skill sets at the cutting edge. The programs she designs involve collaborations among academe, industry, and government; and utilize, as appropriate, digital instruction and platforms.
Recent awards include: “Made in NJ Honor Role” conferred by the NJ Manufacturing Extension Program on National Manufacturing Day, 2018; Leading Women Intrapreneur, conferred by NJ Leading Women Entrepreneurs, 2018; and Best 50 Women in Business, conferred by NJ Biz, 2016. In 2018, she was the Principal Investigator of three NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD) grants: (1) Construction & Utilities Talent Development Center, (2) Construction & Utilities Talent Network, and (3) Technology Advisory Network (TAN). Among her numerous publications, her co-authored paper, M-0utreach for Engineering Continuing Education: A Model for University-Company Collaboration,” was awarded one of five Best Paper awards out of 1700 submissions presented at the American Society for Engineering Education’s 118th Annual Conference.
Before joining NJIT in 1992, Dr. Spak was Dean of the School of Professional and Continuing Education at New York Institute of Technology, Old Westbury, New York, and, during America’s first energy crisis, served as the Director of the Center for Energy Policy and Research and authored “how to” reports which were sent to every American Governor.
She earned her Doctor of Philosophy in Political Psychology and Master of Arts from Yale University, and her Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, in Political Science from Brooklyn College of City University of New York.

visit author page


Ronald H Rockland New Jersey Institute of Technology

visit author page

Dr. Ronald H. Rockland received his B.S.E.E. and M.S.E.E. and Ph.D. in bioengineering and electrical engineering from New York University, and received an M.B.A. in marketing from the University of St. Thomas. After almost 25 years of industrial experience in research, engineering, marketing and sales management and general management with several high technology corporations, he joined New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in 1995 as an Assistant Professor. He is currently professor emeritus, Engineering Technology. Prior to retiring, he was the chair and professor of the Department of Engineering Technology, with a joint appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Previous to that he served as Associate Dean, Undergraduate Studies for the Newark College of Engineering of NJIT.
His research in industry was in the area of pacemakers and defibrillation, and his research at Medtronic Inc led to five patents. He was a principal investigator for a three year, $1 million NSF grant entitled Medibotics: The merging of medicine, robotics and IT, and was a co-principal investigator for a $2.5 million grant on pre-engineering workforce enhancement from the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education, as well as a principal investigator for a Whitaker Foundation grant. His current research was in biological signal processing, related to cardiovascular signals, and in enhancing STEM education through use of engineering principles. He has written over 50 articles in both journals and conference proceedings, in both the educational and biomedical fields.
Dr. Rockland was the recipient in 2015 of the ASEE Middle Atlantic Distinguished Teaching Award, in 2004 of the F.J. Berger award, a national engineering technology award presented by ASEE, and a 2000 award winner in Excellence in Teaching for NJIT, was named a Master Teacher in 2004, and was the chair of the Master Teacher’s Committee. He is also very active in the Engineering Technology community, have served in numerous capacities for the Engineering Technology Division (ETD) of the American Society of Engineering Educators (ASEE), most recently as the Chair for ETD, as well as serving as a commissioner on the Technology Accreditation Commission (TAC) for ABET. He was selected in 2011 as a Fellow of the American Society of Engineering Educators. He is currently a Professor Emeritus in the School of Applied Engineering and Technology of NJIT.

visit author page

author page

Linda S Hirsch

Download Paper |


The paper will be a summary of the implementation and effectiveness of a one-week in-person workshop designed to introduce middle school students to engineering and what engineers do as part of an educational Summer Camp at Brookdale Community College, located in Lincroft, NJ. Other discussion highlights will include: research supporting the importance of introducing engineering to middle school students; the motivation behind the instructors’ decision to conduct the program in a summer camp setting; the significance to the program’s success of having had engineers and continuing education professionals design and teach the program; and plans for an expanded program during the summer of 2022, based on lessons learned.

Regarding the 2021 Summer Camp program, the engineering design process was the vehicle for demonstrating the work in which engineers engage. Problem-solving was a key connector of the subject of science to engineering. Students were given the opportunity to solve problems just as engineers would while learning how engineers use science in their everyday work. The NASA Mars landing in 2021 was used as a theme to increase students’ interest in engineering by engaging student teams in hands-on and fun real-life applications of engineering. This also provided a meaningful context for the middle school students to learn about science concepts, such as gravity, levers, and forces, as well as engineering concepts such as systems, building solid structures, mechanisms, and machines. Students were also introduced to the profession of engineering, the many different fields of engineering, the multi-disciplinary aspects of engineering, and examples of different engineering work places. The introduction of the engineering design process to student teams included the design and construction of spinning tops, gyroscopes, Rattlebacks, and Rube Goldberg devices. Then, the teams of students were involved in engineering activities, using everyday materials, related to the Mars landing. These included the design and construction of: A parachute that can hold weight and descend slowly; A lander that can keep items (such as people) inside the lander after impact; A paper Mars helicopter; A model of a space habitat; A working robot arm; and A Mars rover. An end-of-program survey found that the program did increase students’ interest in engineering and knowledge of engineering careers by providing them with challenging real-life applications of engineering.

Kimmel, H. S., & Spak, G. T., & Rockland, R. H., & Hirsch, L. S. (2022, April), Motivating Middle Schoolers to Be Engineers Paper presented at 2022 Spring ASEE Middle Atlantic Section Conference, Newark, New Jersey. 10.18260/1-2--40060

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: © 2022 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