AC 2010-561: HIGH SCHOOL ENTERPRISE: INTRODUCING ENGINEERING DESIGN IN A HIGH SCHOOL TEAM ENVIRONMENT
In efforts to promote interest in engineering careers among secondary students, across the country there are several current initiatives intended to introduce engineering concepts at precollege levels.
There are basically three approaches in use: teach the concepts in a course dedicated to engineering, blend them into traditional courses such as math and science, or expose students to engineering in a project work environment.
For concepts such as engineering design and project management, the project-based approach may be best. High School Enterprise (HSE) offers a project-based learning environment well suited to the introduction of these concepts. HSE is an extraor in-curricular school activity where students from grades 9-12 engage in authentic, inquiry-based STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning.
Students participate on teams organized as virtual companies that develop products or services. Each year, there is a capstone event where secondary student teams gather on a university campus to present their project work alongside college teams to an audience of university faculty and students and industry representatives.
The overarching goal of HSE is to seed and cultivate what will become a world-class and broadly inclusive science and technology workforce. Due to the long-term nature of the projects, there are many opportunities to introduce, and then spend significant time on, the engineering design process.
To introduce engineering design concepts into this program, the topic was presented to teachers during a week-long workshop in the summers of 2008 and 2009. In 2008, the presentation was of a general nature and intended as a very basic introduction, while in 2009, a more extensive unit was presented encompassing both design and project management.
This paper provides information on the current efforts to introduce engineering topics at the high school level and where HSE fits into this landscape. It describes the High School Enterprise program and how secondary students and teachers are exposed to engineering design. Some examples of student-project work from the 2008/2009 academic year that convey how students engage in the design process are included.
Finally, the lessons learned to-date and how those lessons are helping to shape plans for future development and assessment are discussed. The National Landscape of High School Engineering Until just a few years ago, there were very few high schools that had any sort of engineering curriculum other than a small selection of graphics courses such as drafting and computer aided drafting.
As of late, there has been a push to get more engineering content into high school curriculums. Today several state education standards address engineering to some degree, but there is considerable variation among those state standards, and the national effort to introduce such standards is still in its infancy.
Indeed, the National Academy of Engineering is currently conducting a study (due out in March 2010) on K-12 engineering education standards. The Academy states: “The goal of this exploratory project is to assess the potential value and feasibility of developing and implementing content standards for engineering education in K12.” 1 P ge 15643.2 Even without widely accepted education standards, the importance of engineering has been recognized in many school districts. Many high schools are now offering curriculum choices in engineering and a few schools, many of them charter schools, center their entire curriculum on engineering or on science and engineering. These schools use curricular material that has been purchased, or sometimes developed in-house to meet their needs. There are several pre-packaged engineering curricula available to high schools. Two well-known efforts are Project Lead the Way (PLTW 2000 schools in 2009) and the Infinity Project (about 400 schools in 2009).
These are both designed to be taught in a traditional classroom setting during the regular school day. They provide the teacher training and curriculum materials so schools can teach the program courses in a systematic and consistent manner. School districts that purchase these packages also bear the costs of required equipment and teacher training.
Engineering Design is a separate curricular piece in both of these examples and is taught in a traditional classroom setting. In addition to these in-curricular programs, there are several extra-curricular programs which provide activities and/or competitions that deliver engineering or STEM content to high school students.
The most visible of these are FIRST Robotics (1800 teams in 2010) and Science Olympiad (5700 schools in 2010). There are also many college/university outreach programs in which area high school students participate in competitions, activities, sessions, or camps held on the campus of the college or university.
The durations of these programs vary from an afternoon to weeks. And, while they may offer opportunities for students to learn about engineering design, whether or not this happens probably depends on the individuals leading these groups (mentors and/or teachers) and on the time available to do so. Finally, there are several efforts sponsored by professional societies and other groups aimed at a high school audience.
A sampling of these initiatives include ASEE’s “Engineering Go For It!” (eGFI) publication and website. The eGFI website contains links for K-12 teachers interested in teaching engineering concepts that access activities and lesson plans from several sources. Besides ASEE, almost every engineering professional society (IEEE, ASME, and ASCE are some notable examples) dedicates web space to a K-12 audience.
These efforts, however, require that individual teachers take the initiative to access the resource and then implement the learning activity on their own. To put the participation numbers given for these programs in some perspective, consider that there are about 27,000 secondary schools in the United States alone (including public, private, and charter institutes). Given this, there are likely many, many schools that the STEM initiatives listed above have not benefitted.
So, there remains a great need to increase and to diversify the venues for bringing engineering content to secondary students and thusly, it is hoped, to expand the pool of degree-seeking STEM majors in higher education. High School Enterprise – how it fits into the landscape High School Enterprise (HSE) has a mission similar to those programs presented above.
It is a program designed to interest more students in STEM careers, particularly engineering. However, HSE is different from other programs in several significant ways. It is project based, but instead of specifying a particular project, student teams develop their own project ideas. Any project that has a STEM focus fits into the HSE model.
In cases where HSE is an extracurricular program, P ge 15643.3 teacher-coaches are paid comparably to athletic coaches. HSE projects are long-term, at least one school-year or longer. HSE teams are closely linked to a university partner and the secondary students visit the university campus each spring to display and present their project work.
Another distinguishing feature of HSE is that it is designed to fit into (or along with) any high school. It works just as well in a charter school specializing in math and science as it does in an inner city school with a traditional course selection.
This allows students with diverse interests to participate and offers the chance of introducing students who may never have considered engineering (or STEM) as a college or career choice. In fact, HSE has even engaged students from two alternative high schools.
The nature of the HSE model presents a unique opportunity to introduce engineering design to high school students. Of course, there are other ways in which students could be introduced to this concept. Indeed, Project Lead the Way offers an entire 9 grade course entitled “Introduction to Engineering Design.” Nevertheless, HSE has features to deliver engineering design concepts to students whether or not they are getting any sort of engineering instruction in their regular school day.
These program features are threefold: 1) the long term nature of the project, which gives students the opportunity to become familiar with the iterative nature of the design process(compare short projects which may give a hint at how the process works but rarely allow the “engineers” time to meaningfully cycle through the process); 2) the presence of a “coach” who is familiar with the design process and can help the students see where they are in the process and help with the cycling back when needed; and 3) the use of mentors from both industry and academia who help teams with their projects and can present the subject of design from a perspective much different from that of a classroom teacher. Overview and History of HSE High School Enterprise (HSE) is an extraor in-curricular school program in which students from grades 9-12 engage in active, applied STEM learning.
Students participate on teams organized as “virtual companies” that develop products or services as they engage in long-term projects with a STEM focus. HSE team projects are STEM-based but can involve students from all backgrounds and with a variety of interests. Students do not need have to have previous credentials (e.g., completed algebra) in order to contribute to the team in a significant way. HSE teams are coached by specially-trained high school STEM faculty called “teacher-coaches.”
Teams have access to real-world expertise and mentoring from professionals in academia and industry. HSE teams write business plans, solve real-world problems, perform testing and analyses, build prototypes, manufacture parts, operate within budgets, and manage their projects. Each spring, HSE teams showcase their work alongside college students
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