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The Headlines: K-12 Education Should Include Engineering

Following up on this headline, ScienceDaily (Sept. 10, 2009) asserted that "engineering education has the potential to improve student learning and achievement in science and mathematics, increase awareness about what engineers do and of engineering as a potential career, and boost students' technological literacy." These impressive claims were based on a report from the National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council.

Admitting that engineering is an overlooked member of STEM, the report said K-12 education should "emphasize engineering design and a creative problem-solving process" while including both "relevant concepts in mathematics, science, and technology" and "the development of skills many believe essential for the 21st century, including systems thinking, collaboration, and communication."

Though admitting to some progress, the report claimed that about six million students have been exposed to some formal engineering coursework, a small number out of the approximately fifty-six million students in the U.S. So what can we do....., especially since most teachers are not prepared to teach engineering concepts or know how to discuss engineering as a possible career?

R.L. (Oakland, CA), an engineer and good friend, has been working with students in classrooms for many years. She offered three suggestions for resources:

  • A "cool program" she is involved in each summer is Get Set, a concept that works well and integrates Society of Women Engineers, Girls Scouts and industry role models
  • IEEE-USA offers resources for both teachers and students
  • Jets.org offers resources for stduents, teachers and parents, plus sponsors academic competitions
One other program I can recommend is MESA (the Washington State version). For a national overview of the program and its results, see MESA. If you know of other K-12 engineering programs or resources, please let me know so that they can be shared.