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Toys, Tinkerers, And Tomorrow: Growing Engineers

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.1061.1 - 6.1061.9



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Paper Authors

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Anna Phillips

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Charles V. Camp

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Paul Palazolo

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

Session 3453

Toys, Tinkerers, and Tomorrow: Growing Engineers Paul Palazolo, Anna Phillips, Charles Camp The University of Memphis


This paper presents the findings and recommendations resulting from a pilot program aimed at educating and interesting middle school students in the fields of math, science, and engineering. “The Joy of Engineering” was piloted in the summer semester of 2000 and included a staff of three multidisciplinary instructors supplemented by 7 middle school teachers from the local school system. There were two one-week sessions offered with a total of 64 students, who were allowed to choose between two focuses of instruction: structures or energy. Two parallelsessions used K’NEX sets as educational manipulatives to teach engineering design concepts with well-defined constraints and goals, and at the end of the week, the students participated in a competition between design alternatives. A structurestrack had students using K'NEX Bridge sets to design and build alternative bridge like structures with a goal of minimizing materials costs while maximizing strength-to-weight ratio. A motion-and-energy- track used K'NEX Racer Energy sets building spring and rubber band powered vehicles with a goal of minimizing materials while traversing a distance in the minimum time. Each track included fundamental concepts necessary to understand forces and limited engineering principles.

Instruction in the program was based on cognitive principles of active and collaborative learning, and, in addition to the technical skills, students were exposed to technical writing strategies and communication skills. The assessment plan included pre/post surveys, student and instructor journals, and an exit skills test. A longevity follow-up study is planned for the spring 2001 semester.

Results were overwhelmingly positive from the program’s administrators, instructors, and students, and tips for generalization of the program with recommendations for improvement are included.

I. What is the Joy of Engineering Program About?

The pilot program for The Joy of Engineering Summer Program was created with the primary goal of generating new knowledge and excitement about the fields of math, science, and engineering for middle school students. Two separate one-week sessions were offered June 12- 16, 2000 and June 26-30 at The University of Memphis’ Herff College of Engineering, and each day’s session was scheduled from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Phillips, A., & Camp, C. V., & Palazolo, P. (2001, June), Toys, Tinkerers, And Tomorrow: Growing Engineers Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9910

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