NSF launches pilot for national high school engineering course


Credit: Matthew Ehrichs, University of Maryland

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has funded a pilot to prepare a curriculum and teachers across the U.S. for a nationwide pre-college course on engineering principles and design.

The three-year, $4-million pilot marks an important milestone in the creation of a nationally recognized high school engineering course intended to lead to widely accepted, transferrable credit at the college level.

"NSF plays a vital role in helping to build the nation's future engineering workforce, and a key part of that is enabling more students to have access to undergraduate engineering education," said Dawn Tilbury, NSF's assistant director for Engineering. "A standardized high school engineering course will help remove the mystery and democratize the learning and practice of engineering."

The University of Maryland will lead the pilot in partnership with Arizona State University, Morgan State University and Virginia Tech. In addition, Vanderbilt University will evaluate the curriculum, student learning and teacher training, and NASA Goddard will collaborate on dissemination.

During the pilot, the researchers will refine a curriculum developed by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and the College Board. The curriculum will integrate engineering principles and a student design project, and it will align to Next Generation Science Standards for K-12 education, developed by 26 states and other partners.

The second major activity is to create and deploy a national professional development program that prepares pre-college teachers to teach the curriculum effectively and assess student design projects based on uniform standards. A web-based tool will help researchers track and evaluate the learning and practice of engineering concepts by teachers and students.

Pilot partners will recruit classrooms in rural, suburban and urban areas around the country having students with diverse economic, racial and ethnic backgrounds. Approximately 40 high schools and 1,400 students will participate in the pilot.

"To achieve the goal of providing this exciting and important engineering opportunity to all U.S. students will require a continued collaboration among teachers, high schools, engineering schools and other educational organizations," Tilbury said.

Engineering deans in the ASEE PreK-12 Engineering Education Committee, including NSF-funded principal investigator Darryll Pines, have been laying the groundwork for an advanced high school course in engineering for over five years.

Following the ASEE Public Policy Colloquium in February 2018, more than 100 U.S. deans of engineering schools indicated to the committee their willingness to award credit for entering undergraduate students who have successfully completed a high-quality introductory course in engineering while in high school.


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