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Engineering in K–12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects
neering design. For this, teachers must either have appropriate background in mathematics, science, and technology, or they must collaborate with teachers who have this background. We held two data-gathering workshops to explore the professional-development situation for K–12 engineering educators. Information from those workshops is also included in this chapter.
Although the emphasis in this report is on engineering education in this country, the charge to the committee included a directive to find examples of pre-college engineering education in other nations, on the grounds that efforts elsewhere to introduce pre-college students to engineering might influence decisions here. The few initiatives we found are described briefly in an annex to this chapter.
Finally, we recognize that numerous efforts have been made to introduce engineering to K–12 students outside of formal school settings, through websites, contests, after-school programs, and summer programs. The committee charge did not require us to examine these informal K–12 activities. We note, however, that some of these initiatives appear to have increased students’ awareness of and stimulated their interest in engineering (e.g., Melchior et al., 2005; TexPREP, 2003).
REVIEW OF CURRICULA
To identify K–12 engineering curricula, the committee relied on the joint efforts of committee members, Prof. Kenneth Welty,1 University of Wisconsin-Stout, and project staff. The methods included reviews of websites of professional organizations, government agencies, and corporations with an interest in engineering education; searches of online curriculum clearinghouses and libraries; and direct communication with engineering educators, technology teachers, supervisors of state departments of education, and principal investigators of known K–12 engineering education programs and projects. In May 2008, the committee solicited public comments on a project summary, which brought several additional curricula to our attention.
Overall, the committee collected more than 10,000 pages of material, including lengthy narratives downloaded off the Web, material stored on compact disks, material assembled in three-ring binders, and material bound into textbooks. The materials ranged from 425 pages on a single
The committee chose Prof. Welty because of his expertise in curriculum analysis, as well as his capacity as a co-principal investigator at the National Center for Engineering and Technology Education (NCETE) funded by the National Science Foundation. NCETE’s research agenda complements the overall goals of this project.