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Using Cyber Infrastructure Enhanced Product Dissection To Introduce Engineering To Middle School Students

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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

Engineering in Middle Schools

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1334.1 - 13.1334.16



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Paper Authors

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Tris West Lewisburg Area School District

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Abe Feuerstein Bucknell University

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Steven Shooter Bucknell University

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

Using Cyber-Infrastructure Enhanced Product Dissection to Introduce Engineering to Middle School Students


This study examines the influence of engineering dissection activities on middle school students’ interest in science and engineering careers. Attracting students to engineering is a matter of growing concern considering that engineering related jobs are currently being created at five times the national average1. This trend coupled with relatively low college admissions rates into engineering programs points toward the need to develop greater student interest in engineering and engineering related fields at much younger ages. Studies suggest that students introduced to the potential and promise of science and engineering during middle school have a much greater inclination to pursue science related careers in later years2, 3. In the study presented here, an inquiry based, interactive “WebQuest” was developed for 6th grades students which focused on product dissection, with a goal of helping students develop an interest in Engineering, Archaeology, History, and Anthropology. Product dissection has long been recognized as a powerful teaching tool that utilizes disassembly, analysis and assembly of an artifact or process in order to reach desired educational objectives and outcomes. Most recently these outcomes have been placed within a framework for engineering dissection activities which high lights the ability of dissection to (1) expose students to engineering concepts and vocabulary; (2) inspire students through engagement in a self-discovery learning environment; (3) foster inquiry into engineering principles and theory; and (4) encourage exploration of generation, redesign, and design processes4. Changes in student interest in engineering as a result of participating in the “WebQuest” were measured through a pre/post design which utilized the Science and Engineering (S/E) Career Interest Survey (CIS); a validated engineering career interest survey designed for middle school students5. Findings indicate that through participation in the “WebQuest” students became more interested in possible careers in engineering. This project was undertaken as part of an NSF Cyber Infrastructure Teams grant to explore new techniques for enhancing engineering education through cyber-supported product dissection that includes nine universities and 34 faculty members.

Section 1: Introduction

Product dissection has been used in a variety of ways to successfully engage engineering students in their learning. Intellectual and physical activities such as dissection help to anchor knowledge and practice of engineering in the minds of students6,7 and has been successfully used to help students identify relationships between engineering fundamentals and hardware design8,9. Product dissection provides “hands-on” activities to couple engineering principles with significant visual feedback10,11,12, and such “learning by doing” activities encourage the development of curiosity, proficiency and manual dexterity, three desirable traits of an engineer13. Dissection also gives students early exposure to functional products and processes, and introducing such experiences early in the students’ academic careers has been shown to increase motivation and retention14.


West, T., & Feuerstein, A., & Shooter, S. (2008, June), Using Cyber Infrastructure Enhanced Product Dissection To Introduce Engineering To Middle School Students Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3385

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