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Teaching Engineering In High School Using Service Learning: The Epics Model

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Gender & Minority Issues in K-12 Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1162.1 - 13.1162.13



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Paper Authors


Michael Thompson Purdue University

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Michael Thompson is a Ph.D. candidate at Purdue University in Chemical Education. He has worked extensively within science and engineering and is currently part of the deveopment team for the EPICS High School Program.

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Pamela Turner Purdue University EPICS

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Pamela Turner is the EPICS High School Coordinator. She graduated from Purdue Univesity with a Bachelors in Education. She has experience as a Gifted & Talented Program Coordinator and Teacher with a local school corporation. She also served as the Director of Marketing and Resource Development for Lafayette Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc. before joining Purdue University’s EPICS program.

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William Oakes Purdue University Orcid 16x16

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William Oakes is the Director of the EPICS Program and an Associate Professor in Engineering Education at Purdue University. He is a co-recipient of the2005 National Academy of Engineerins Bernard M. Gordon Prize and the 2004 NSPEEngineering Education Excellence Award. He is a past-chair of the ASEE IL/IN Section, and
board member of the CIP Division.

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

Teaching Engineering in High School Using Service-Learning Introduction

Over the last 20 years, a great deal of time, effort and money have gone into increasing interest in engineering among pre-college students, with minimal results. Overall, interest in engineering has been flat or declining. The number of women and minorities within engineering continue to be underrepresented compared to their share of the overall population. Many are calling for new approaches to engage young people, including an active investigation by the National Academy of Engineering.

While interest in engineering has been declining, interest by young people in community activism through community engagement is increasing exponentially. The number of teenagers who volunteer, for example, has doubled in the last ten years. Civic engagement among pre-college students is at near historic highs. In light of these current trends it is becoming more obvious that young people want to be engaged and participate in something that they think will make a difference in their community. Through anecdotal evidence it appears that these students are not, however, connecting this interest in helping their community with engineering. This is one of the questions that we begin to investigate in this paper to begin to test this anecdotal evidence.

Connecting engineering and science as fields that benefit people has long been cited in the literature as a way to increase interest among women1-4 as well as underrepresented populations5-7. Experiences in service-learning programs at the universities have confirmed this trend. The Engineering Projects in Community Service learning (EPICS) Program at Purdue University8,9 has reported higher percentages of underrepresented students and chapters of Engineers Without Borders have reported many chapters being at or near gender balance.

While the university programs are an asset, to impact the pipeline of engineering students would require pre-college programs to draw students into the college pipeline. Drawing students into this pipeline requires students to have a basic knowledge of engineering, to be interested in engineering, and dissipating the current views of what it means to be an engineer. This paper will describe how a service-learning model has been adapted to the high school environment to encompass these aspects as students are introduced to engineering.

Program Description

EPICS is an innovative engineering-based, design program that uses a service-learning model to meet the educational needs of undergraduates and the compelling needs of the local community. Founded in 1995 in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University, it has grown to be a multidisciplinary program engaging over 30 different majors per year. The model has spread to other campuses and is active at 20 universities around the country and aboard.

Thompson, M., & Turner, P., & Oakes, W. (2008, June), Teaching Engineering In High School Using Service Learning: The Epics Model Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4092

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