Introducing middle school students to engineering and the Engineering Design Process

Linda S. Hirsch, Suzanne L. Berliner-Heyman, John D. Carpinelli, Howard S. Kimmel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

9 Scopus citations


Middle school is an important time for students to begin thinking about future careers because proper academic preparation for college must begin early for students who choose to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), especially engineering. Research on engineering recruitment indicates that as a result of the lack of public awareness about what engineering really is, and the absence of engineering topics in K-12 science and mathematics curricula and instruction, most potential college students are not prepared academically to study engineering in college. Summer enrichment programs designed to increase academically talented middle school students' interest in the STEM fields can be instrumental in informing young students about careers in STEM, especially engineering, so that they can appreciate the importance of obtaining the academic background required to enter college STEM programs. This paper describes such a program for fifth, sixth and seventh grade students from traditionally underserved and typically underrepresented populations who would not otherwise be exposed to engineering during their middle school years. The academic curriculum is aligned with state Core Curriculum Content Standards. Students are presented with a scenario that contains a core problem to be solved and are assigned to work in teams of four. Students receive an introduction to the Engineering Design Process (EDP), are taught how to apply the EDP in developing and testing a prototype, and are required to make a presentation about their solution to the core problem. Presentations must include an outline of how the EDP was applied and a demonstration of their prototype. Programs such as this provide an interdisciplinary, project-based learning environment that draws mostly on math, science, and technology and offers major benefits to education at all levels, as it fosters essential 21st century skills such as problem-solving, communication, teamwork, independence, imagination and creativity. Results indicate that, in addition to significant increases in their attitudes toward science, mathematics and engineering, most students demonstrated increased knowledge about careers in engineering and an understanding of the engineering design process by the end of the program.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
PublisherAmerican Society for Engineering Education
ISBN (Print)9780878232413
StatePublished - 2012
Event119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - San Antonio, TX, United States
Duration: Jun 10 2012Jun 13 2012

Publication series

NameASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Electronic)2153-5965


Other119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Antonio, TX

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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