Middle school students' understanding and application of the engineering design process

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

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Today, in the 21st century, knowledge of science, technology and especially engineering are necessary to make informed decisions in most aspects of everyday life and the demand to fill jobs in these areas, especially engineering, is growing rapidly. Recent research indicates that a majority of college students who enter Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors became interested in STEM-related subjects when they were in high school or even earlier, in middle school. But the absence of engineering topics in K-12 science and mathematics curricula means that most potential college students are not prepared academically to study engineering in college or pursue careers in engineering. To address this problem the Next Generation Science Standards integrate engineering design and mathematics into science education. The engineering design process provides an opportunity to teach students about scientific inquiry and helps make connections between the science used in engineering applications in the real world and their classroom science lessons. Most current teachers have not been trained to incorporate engineering topics into classroom lessons and while professional development for teachers is being developed to address this need, summer enrichment programs such as those offered through the Center for Pre-college programs at New Jersey Institute of Technology can be instrumental in filling this void. The current paper describes a summer program for middle school students who would not otherwise have been exposed to engineering topics. Students were presented with a scenario that contains a core problem to be solved. Students were assigned to work in teams and were introduced to the Engineering Design Process as a means to develop a solution to the problem. Students completed a pre and post test which included questions about the Engineering Design Process (EDP) and were required to make a presentation about their solution to the core problem. A rubric has been developed to evaluate students' understanding and application of the EDP from their presentations. Analyses of the pre- and post-tests indicate that most students had no prior knowledge of the engineering design process but learned the steps during the course of the program. Correlations among students' responses to the post-test and scores from the rubric have been found. Results include a preliminary examination of the psychometric properties of the rubric.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7044311
JournalProceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE
Issue numberFebruary
StatePublished - Feb 17 2015
Event44th Annual Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2014 - Madrid, Spain
Duration: Oct 22 2014Oct 25 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


  • Engineering design process
  • Enrichment programs
  • K-12 STEM education
  • Middle school STEM programs


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