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What's An Engineer? Teaching Teachers About Engineering

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

K-12 Outreach Initiatives

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.1312.1 - 7.1312.9



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Paper Authors

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Gretchen Hein

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Sheryl Sorby

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What’s an Engineer? Teaching Teachers about Engineering

Gretchen L. Hein and Sheryl A. Sorby

Department of Engineering Fundamentals

Michigan Technological University 1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton, MI 49931-1295 USA PH: 906-487-1968 FAX: 906-487-1620 e-mail:,

Abstract Many K-12 teachers do not know what an engineer does or what the different engineering disciplines are. Consequently, they are unsure of how to encourage their students to explore engineering as a career. To address this issue, a three day workshop was held during the Summer of 2001 at Michigan Technological University. During this workshop, teachers attended exploratory sessions where they completed hands-on experiments that pertained to specific engineering disciplines. The explorations covered Biomedical, Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Computer, Environmental, Geological, Materials, Mechanical and Mining Engineering. Each session lasted about 1 1/2 hours and included a brief synopsis of that engineering field. Most of the hands-on experiments could be directly used or adapted for use in K-12 classes. Some of the explorations were: constructing a soil resistivity meter, modeling oxygen uptake in a lake, mechanical dissection of a toaster, removal of solids from water using reverse osmosis and bridge design using West Point Bridge Designer software. At the end of the workshop, the participants completed an evaluation form. Most self-reported very little knowledge of specific engineering disciplines prior to the workshop. After the explorations, they reported a significant increase in their knowledge of the different disciplines. This paper describes the activities performed by the participants in the workshop and presents evaluation results. Lessons learned and future plans will also be presented in this paper.

Introduction Most K-12 students learn about engineering as a career choice from what their parents or teachers tell them. Teachers encourage students who are good at math and science to go into engineering. Many teachers have difficulties communicating to their students what engineers do because they do not know enough about engineering (i.e. types of jobs and career paths, engineering disciplines). To address this issue, Michigan Technological University developed a 3 day workshop to introduce K-12 teachers to various engineering disciplines. Teachers learned about engineering through hands-on activities, many of which were usable in their classrooms.

Workshop Structure For this workshop, teachers attended sessions that introduced them to Mining, Environmental, Civil, Mechanical, Biomedical, Geological, Electrical, Computer, Materials and Chemical Engineering. Engineering faculty from the various engineering departments developed and presented the sessions to the K-12 teachers. In addition to these sessions, teachers were shown how a remote Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) could be used in their classrooms. Each

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Hein, G., & Sorby, S. (2002, June), What's An Engineer? Teaching Teachers About Engineering Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10162

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