Leveraging Simple Problems to Introduce Engineering Principles and Ways of Thinking
Abstract: This paper is co-authored by Dr. Kenneth Welty and Dr. David Stricker, from the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. This paper is included in Proceedings of the ASQ 2012 Advancing the STEM Agenda Conference.
This study sought to test the merits of “engineering simple things in sophisticated ways” under the auspices of integrated STEM education. The inquiry employed pre- and post-assessments to gauge students’ conceptions of engineering, the work that engineers do, and the nature of engineering design.
It also included an analysis of classroom observations, teacher testimony, and students’ work in the interest of triangulation. The findings suggest the nature of engineering can be portrayed with surprising richness with an extremely simple problem. More specifically, they suggest engineering a simple object in a rich manner can weaken the misconception that engineers fix things, increase student awareness of design in engineering endeavors, and enable students to recognize the importance of testing in the design process.
Lastly, an emphasis on reverse engineering and redesigning a simple object within a few lessons can capture and retain student interest.
Keywords: STEM - Conference Proceedings - K-12 Outreach - Engineering