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The Role of Classroom Artifacts in Developmental Engineering

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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

Examining Problem-based Learning

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1338.1 - 25.1338.12



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Paper Authors


Diana Bairaktarova Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Diana Bairaktarova is a doctoral student in engineering education at Purdue University. She obtained her B.S. and M.S. in mechanical engineering from Technical University in Sofia, Bulgaria, and M.B.A. degree from Hamline School of Business, Minnesota. Bairaktarova has more than a decade of engineering design experience, working as a Module design, and MMIC Test Engineer. Her research interest is in the area of developmental engineering, creativity, engineering design, and STEM education, and engineering ethics. Bairaktarova is currently working on a research project to study the ways young children exhibit an interest in engineering in their classrooms.

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Demetra Evangelou Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Demetra Evangelou, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She obtained her B.A. in psychology from Northeastern Illinois University, and a M.Ed. and Ph.D. in education from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is a member of Sigma Xi Science Honor Society. Evangelou was awarded an NSF CAREER grant in 2009 and a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 2011. Evangelou’s current research focuses on engineering thinking, developmental factors in engineering pedagogy, technological literacy, and human-artifact interactions.

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Aikaterini Bagiati Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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After graduating with a diploma in electrical and computers engineering and a master's degree in advanced digital communication systems from Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece, Aikaterini (Katerina) Bagiati was at 2008 one of the first graduate students to join the pioneer School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. At 2011, she acquired her doctoral degree in engineering education, and is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Bagiati’s research interests reside in the areas of developmental engineering, STEM curriculum development, educational robotics and software, teacher training, art and engineering design.

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Jennifer Dobbs-Oates Purdue University

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Jennifer Dobbs-Oates is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. Her research bridges the disciplines of psychology and education, focusing on the learning, and behavior of preschool-aged children. She is interested in how young children’s pre-academic skills (including pre-literacy, pre-numeracy, and precursors of engineering thinking) are connected to their psychological functioning (including behavior and social-emotional development). In particular, she is interested in children who are at risk for negative outcomes due to poverty and early behavior problems.

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The role of classroom artefacts in developmental engineeringInitial research findings examining the developmental appropriateness of introducingengineering at an early age suggest that activities and content relevant to engineering areappropriate for young children. Objects in children’s environment appear to be influential in thedevelopment of engineering thinking. Exploratory learning is recognized as a developmentallyappropriate practice in early childhood education. The present study continues to gather evidenceon the ways children construct artifacts and communicate their designs as precursors toengineering thinking. We review the critical role of artifacts and how their presence in theclassroom may have impact on young children’s development of engineering thinking.In this paper we present findings from a study designed to investigate the relationship betweenpreschool classroom, the presence of artefacts, and children’s explorations. We discussimplications for developmental approaches to Science, Technology, Engineering, andMathematics (STEM) in preschool settings. This study builds on prior research in youngchildren’s interactions with artefacts and possible implications for developmental engineering,focusing on questions related to the preschool classroom environment.Our study participants are thirty-five children of age 4 to 5 years old and fifteen teachers fromsix preschool classrooms. Three of the child care programs are university-affiliated and theyserved a population of well-educated families of moderate-to-high socioeconomic status. Theother three programs are Head Start programs serving low socioeconomic families. The selectionof the two sites is intentional aiming to include a wide range of responses as would be expectedfrom the two diverse children populations. In setting the study teachers were asked to fill outquestionnaires regarding the presence of specific familiar and unfamiliar artefacts in theirclassrooms. The artifacts used in this study were carefully selected by the research team to meetcertain criteria. In all cases, artifacts met the definition of being human-made, were relativelyinexpensive and easy to transport, and provided some opportunity for interaction. In addition,teachers filled out an engineering interest measure and the Devereux Early ChildhoodAssessment (DECA) scale for the participating children.Data is currently in a process of analysis using both quantitative and qualitative approach.Findings so far present a relationship of specific artefacts in the six schools studied and differenttypes of interactions between the children and the artifacts according to the teachers. Theseinitial findings support the notion of artefacts as developmentally significant in promotingcognition through exploration. Findings from this study could be useful in informing and guidingcurrent efforts to create developmentally appropriate engineering relevant curricula.

Bairaktarova, D., & Evangelou, D., & Bagiati, A., & Dobbs-Oates, J. (2012, June), The Role of Classroom Artifacts in Developmental Engineering Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22095

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