Playlist: Integrating Engineering Across the STEM Curriculum

This playlist is created for the April 2022 Theme of the Month.


Share your thoughts about this month's theme with the panelists and the community.
Public Discussion
  • April 14, 2022 | 11:13 a.m.

    Thanks to everyone who participated in the Engineering Integration webinar.  There are lots of questions about this complicated topic that couldn't really be addressed in the short panel format but were clearly of concern by the audience.  I would love to hear the views of this group.  Feel free to pose questions for the group.  I will begin with one, and hope others add questions.   

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  • April 14, 2022 | 11:23 a.m.

    One question posed ahead of time was “Which engineering standards are most accepted by the panelists?”.  I would like to expand on this a bit and ask: What standards or learning goals are most emphasized in your project, or should be emphasized when teaching "engineering"? Is there one set of standards that should be emphasized in order for it to be considered “engineering integration”?  These questions pertain to the initial blog for this panel, and is a question that educators and researchers in this field have been debating for years.  Why integrate engineering into K-12 education?  What are the most important learning goals?

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  • Icon for: Nidaa Makki

    Nidaa Makki

    April 14, 2022 | 09:48 p.m.

    These are great questions! When designing our project, we were focusing on addressing both science learning goals and engineering learning goals, and aligning them with NGSS and state standards. We found that having students use science concepts and investigations to inform the engineering design activities can support deeper learning by having students revisit science concepts, and apply them in new contexts. This doesn’t mean to use engineering design as “applied science”, but rather a model were both learning outcomes are important. Integrating engineering provides an opportunity for students to practice solving open ended problems, and they can see the relevance of science and mathematics which increases motivation to learn. There is always the limitation of time constraints in the classroom, and adding engineering design activities means something else has to be taken out. But that’s always a balance teachers work with, which goes back to having a clear rationale for why integrating engineering is beneficial for students. 

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  • April 14, 2022 | 11:59 p.m.

    I agree--what great questions! In our project, we were focused on aligning with the Massachusetts State Engineering and Technology frameworks. There are two major topics for 6th graders--engineering design, and materials & tools. We decided to create a unit for each of these two topics. We also decided to create a number of shorter lessons that would align to NGSS science topics.

    As much as any particular set of standards, it's important for students to be exposed to engineering in general. Research has revealed that introducing girls to engineering in high school or later is often too late to spark their interest in pursuing engineering as a career. So, we want to give students an authentic look at what engineering is all about--that engineers work together to design things to help people. Just as Nidaa described, we think it's essential that students have opportunities to explore open-ended questions and try the engineering design process for themselves.

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  • April 15, 2022 | 10:28 a.m.

    One issue we struggled with on a previous project (Science Learning Integrating Design, Engineering and Robotics (SLIDER)--a DRK-12 project) was that because we were developing 6-8 week units that had very defined physical science learning goals, we had to impose lots of constraints on the degree of open-endedness that we could allow the students if we wanted to make sure they effectively learned the science concepts.  Once the activity is longer than a week or so, if you are in a core science classroom, you have to ensure that students grapple with the science concepts deeply enough to gain mastery, since the activity can't be implemented as a confirmation of previously taught standards--it has to actually teach the science.  We were following the model from Kolodner et al in Learning By Design, and in the later Project-Based Inquiry Science materials.  We proposed having students design their own Lego Mindstorm robots, learning structural build concepts and rudimentary programming skills in the process of exploring the science of force and motion.  For a bunch of reasons, in the end we had them all build the same pre-designed robotic truck from a pre-bagged set of Lego pieces, and had them merely modify the computer program rather than doing the programming themselves.  That way the robot behaved predictably, and we could create activities that allowed the students to accurately "discover" the fundamental science principals.  The kids still loved it, and constraining the number of Lego pieces needed made the curriculum much easier to implement for the teachers.  (A hazard to using something like Lego Mindstorm is that Lego kept changing the kit, which meant that to keep the curriculum up-to-date, we needed to keep changing the build instructions.)

    NGSS came out in the middle of that project, and we were able to successfully incorporate criteria and constraints and a small design challenge where kids came up with their own solution to a problem, but the standard about optimization was beyond what we could do--teachers rebelled against any more than 3 iterations at the maximum due to time constraints and student attention span.

    Our basic lessons learned that we then used in AMP-IT-UP was that modules or lessons to be implemented in the core math or science class were best constrained to a being only a week long, and that we could do much more inventive things in an engineering or STEM semester-long connections class.

    We still have all our SLIDER curriculum materials and are very willing to share them.  I would love to resurrect them.

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