By Buchanan, Walter
ASEE Prism , Vol. 22, No. 1
Engineering education becomes a K-20 systems issue.
The Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education, now the American Society for Engineering Education, was created in 1893 and is one of the oldest engineering societies in America. Over the past century, ASEE has played a significant role in shaping engineering curricula, improving teaching methods and academic quality, and influencing national policy on engineering education. As engineers, we are trained to approach problems in a systematic way, and we have a history of being successful. This success has raised the standard of living in countries like the United States, but to keep progressing in a globally competitive environment we need more - and greater diversity among - engineers. ASEE's key role in answering the demand for graduates will only continue to grow.
During the past decade in particular, this role has expanded significantly to include students in grades K-12. Again, ASEE is leading the way, with a number of resources directed at this effort. Engineering, Go for It is a great start for increasing awareness of engineering careers. The K-12 Workshop at the annual conference gives hundreds of teachers each year the opportunity to learn about engineering in and out of the classroom. And the nearly 800 members of the K-12 and Precollege Division actively participate in research and the practice of engineering in K-12 classrooms. Members not only present 100 papers each year at the conference, but they also work throughout the year in K-12 schools, conducting research, establishing effective practices, training teachers, and increasing knowledge of engineering - primarily supported by public and private funding.
K-12 and Precollege Division members are largely discipline engineers working in higher education who use their engineering skills in the K-12 classroom. Starting in kindergarten and continuing through high school, they work with teachers, students, and parents to teach engineering as a process for problem solving, systems thinking, and collaboration. Constraints, criteria, and failure are used as ways to frame problems and solutions. While pre -engineering classes exist at the middle and high school levels, engineering is taught most often as an integrator of other subjects. In other words, students use the math, science, language arts, social studies, and arts topics they are taught to solve contextual problems using engineering design. Context and application are important: Research indicates students decide whether they like math and/or science in mid-elementary school. Therefore, our early involvement is essential for students to not only learn about engineering as a process but also as a potential career because their familiarity with it positions them to make informed choices about their post-secondary lives. Efforts to expand engineering and technological literacy in K-12 classrooms are both strategic and appealing, as investment supporting research and practice continues to increase significantly each year. …