Technology, the end result of
engineering problem solving and design, pervades today's economy, business,
and society. All citizens should be exposed to, and have a basic understanding
of, applied science and engineering practice in solving problems. In particular,
they need to appreciate both the power and the limitations of engineering
approaches to solving societal problems. In addition, there is a national
need to attract intelligent and creative students to advanced training in
technology and engineering to provide future leadership and accomplishments.
Yet, secondary school students
are rarely exposed to engineering problem solving in a meaningful, interactive
way, and they thus lack understanding of the processes leading to the technology
surrounding them. Certainly high school students presently have little basis
for choosing a career in engineering. The lack of formative exposure to
engineering in high school is a barrier particularly for minority and female
students because they are less likely to find engineering role models at
home or within their communities. We believe this barrier is reflected in
the underrepresentation of these groups in the engineering professions.
We believe we can help solve
this problem by exporting the concepts and technology we have developed
for ELEC 201 to secondary schools. Our experience can be built upon to provide
specific engineering examples and project modules that can be incorporated
into existing high school courses, particularly, but not exclusively, science,
mathematics, and programming courses. These elements can:
- Provide an opportunity to apply
basic academic skills, such as mathematics and science, in a new context.
Engineering examples can illustrate the relevancy of such skills, reward
past efforts, and motivate skill improvement and advancement.
- Provide students with an appreciation
of the differences between science and engineering.
- Introduce students to common
problem solving techniques like brainstorming, evaluating alternative solutions,
estimation, and choosing approaches.
- Help students to explore the
relationship of engineering and technology to society: engineering ethics
and the public good, intellectual property rights, and professional societies.
The key to success is a teacher
enhancement program to provide teachers with engineering experience, to
aid them in developing appropriate curricular models, and to provide continuing
support for existing course enhancement and new course development. Professional
development of teachers, along with technical support, is essential if we
are to provide high school students with a meaningful exposure to the technical
and engineering professions. We have proposed a program to develop teams
of lead teachers who will be effective agents of change within high schools
to advance science, mathematics, and technology education. We are actively
looking for sponsors for this program. Top
We have supported engineering
design courses at two Houston Independent School District high schools:
the High School for the Engineering Professions (at Washington High School),
and Milby High School. Both are urban schools with a large minority student
body. In addition, we are currently working with a fifth grade teacher at
Neff Elementary to develop an appropriate curriculum model for that grade
Bill Pisciella at the High School for the Engineering Professions has
an engineering background and had previously used robotic examples in his
classes. We collaborated with him to use ELEC 201 as a model for an elective
course focusing on engineering design, with the Rice School of Engineering
providing technical support and supplies. The course has been very popular
and very successful. In some years the high school teams brought their robots
to Rice for the final games and competed successfully with the Rice machines.
One of the students from that course enrolled at Rice and visited his high
school to help support the course.
In the fall of 1996, Mr. John
Treadwell, a science teacher at Milby, received leave to enroll in
ELEC 201 at Rice. He was teamed with two Rice students and participated
fully in the course. During the semester we also discussed ways to adapt
the course to his school. The following semester he initiated a similar
engineering design course at Milby, again with Rice support. These experiments
have demonstrated that the concepts and material in ELEC 201 can be used
successfully at the high school level with a broad mix of students, and
that teacher participation in the course can provide the engineering experience
and grounding necessary to enable them to impact curriculum.
2000 a group of HISD fourth and fifth grade teachers visited ELEC 201 as
part of the Rice
Science and Mathematics Institute. Ms. Jane Arnold, a fifth grade teacher
at Neff Elementary, was intrigued by the possibility of incorporating
elements of the course into her teaching. She returned to Rice several times
for more information and supplies. During the summer we developed a scaled-down
version of the Rice game, and she proposed to lead a Robotics Club at her
school as a test vehicle for curriculum development. The proposal was accepted
and the club is underway. There is certainly plenty of enthusiasm: students
voluntarily arrive at 6:40am to participate. We hope to provide information
on the progress of the project here.
School: We are committed to helping teachers and schools incorporate
the elements of ELEC 201 into their programs, but Rice is a small school
and our resources are limited. We can provide information, guidance, and
help, but we cannot equip classrooms without external funding. Successful
transfer of the course requires a dedicated, organized, and enthusiastic
teacher, or team of teachers, and the support of school administration.
Until we have a funded summer teacher enhancement program, the best model
to follow is the one used by Milby. Teachers should first enroll in ELEC
201 at Rice during the Fall semester. Please contact the instructor
for more information. Top
We are happy to share information
about ELEC 201 with other universities. Most of the information can be obtained
on this site. Evaluation quantities of our hardware can be supplied for
a modest cost. Please contact the instructor
for more information. We have supplied hardware to Texas A&M, Carnegie
Mellon University, and the University of Washington. Top