The ProblemA SolutionPilot Programs (High Schools, Neff Elementary)
Your SchoolUniversities

The Problem

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. Top

A Possible Solution

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:

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

Pilot Programs

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 level.

Mr. 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.

In April 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.

Your 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

University Programs

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