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Engineer Your World: An Innovative Approach to Developing a High School Engineering Design Course


"As standards for K-12 engineering learning emerge with the development of the Next Generation Science Standards, the nation's school systems will likely struggle with the question of whether engineering should be employed as a tool for teaching science and mathematics content (i.e., embedded in science and mathematics courses) or treated as a unique discipline in which science and mathematics are employed as tools for solving design challenges (i.e., offered as a standalone course). Acting on the belief that the latter paradigm is a more appropriate depiction of engineering, the UTeachEngineering project at The University of Texas undertook to demonstrate how rigorous engineering content can be deployed in secondary classrooms by developing a year-long high school engineering course built on a foundation of solid research in the learning sciences, couched in the context of a rigorous engineering design process and scaffolded to build engineering skills and habits of mind.

This paper explains why UTeachEngineering, a program initially designed to prepare pre-service and in-service educators to teach design-based engineering courses at the secondary level, shifted focus early in the project to developing, piloting, evaluating and refining such a course. It describes the target student population for the course, details the engineering development work required, describes the research- and practice-based principles upon which pedagogical decisions are based, and offers a view into the course content. Finally, it describes the piloting of the course in a small number of Texas high schools during the 2011-2012 academic year, discusses how feedback from this pilot is informing course revisions, and outlines plans for leveraging a partnership with NASA to expand implementation of the revised course and pilot a new teacher mentorship model in 2012-2013."