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Teaching Engineering To K 12 Students Using Role Playing Games

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.585.1 - 5.585.7

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Paper Authors

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Mike Robinson

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M. Sami Fadali

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Ken McNichols

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

Session 1526

Teaching Engineering to K-12 Students Using Role Playing Games1

M. Sami Fadali, Mike Robinson, K. McNichols Electrical Engineering/Curriculum & Instruction/Electrical Engineering University of Nevada Reno, NV 89557


There is a strong need for more well trained technically competent individuals in today's modern society. However, there is insufficient coverage of engineering and technology in our school system and many of our K-12 students do not consider engineering and technology as career options. To rectify this situation, we need to introduce our students to engineering practice, concepts, and ideas as early and as extensively as possible. Unfortunately, these students do not have the background to understand these topics as traditionally presented. We propose the use of role-playing to teach K-12 students ideas from engineering fields such as computer engineering, control engineering and power systems. We review the history and literature of role playing and its application to science education. We explain the benefits of role playing as a teaching paradigm and reasons why we believe it is particularly suited to teaching K-12 students about engineering. We also provide examples of role playing games that we have started to use in our school district and as part of special class for science and mathematics teachers.

I. Introduction

The use of role playing as an instructional strategy has been part of the repertoire of teaching methodology for many years1. Originally role playing, in the traditional sense, such as in theatrical performances, was useful in helping students acquire empathy with characters (historical figures) in other times and places.2 Empathy for pioneering characters in engineering and technology, e. g., Thomas Edison, can help students gain a better knowledge of applications of science such as the incandescent lamp. Role playing may also be a learning activity that helps students use reading to better understand science3. Skilled elementary teachers as well as some secondary teachers have generally used skits, plays, newscasts and other scenes often associated with the performing arts in two main ways. First, to engage and motivate students when new topics or units of instruction are begun by the teacher. And second, to provide redundancy and reinforcement in completed topics. Role playing provides the same benefits when introducing students to applications of the same scientific principles in current or future technologies.

1 Partial support for this work was provided by the National Science Foundation’s Division of Undergraduate Education through grant DUE #1970638.

Robinson, M., & Fadali, M. S., & McNichols, K. (2000, June), Teaching Engineering To K 12 Students Using Role Playing Games Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri.

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