NGSS and Teaching Engineering Made Easy

Teaching Engineering Made Easy; A Friendly Introduction to Engineering Activities for Middle School Teachers (Volumes 1 and 2) are books of 20 engineering activities designed to introduce both teachers and students to the world of technology and engineering. Developed to help middle school teachers with no engineering background teach engineering, these easy and exciting, time and work saving books can be used in the classroom, an informal science environment, to enhance an event or competition, at an engineering camp or any other educational setting. They offer a ready collection of projects, lessons and activities to help teachers stimulate student’s thought processes and get them thinking like an engineer. By using these teaching guides, students can see that engineering is not something to be afraid of but a realistic way to solve the problems of everyday life.

The activities do not require a formal science lab and can be done with materials that are inexpensive and easy to find. Activities range from 20-minute problem solving exercises to several class period design or “challenge” activities. The challenge activities integrate perfectly with the Disciplinary Core Ideas of the NGSS. Engineering challenges are design problems that require students to identify needs, define problems (ETS1.A), identify design criteria and constraints, develop solutions (ETS1.B), and evaluate their solutions (ETS1.C).

In these activities, there are more than one “right” answer. In a class of 10 student teams, you will often see 10 different designs that all meet the design criteria. The right design is usually one that meets the engineering criteria and is built within the materials budget. Students will design, construct, and test their engineering design solution and collect relevant data (if applicable). They will then evaluate the solution in terms of design and performance criteria, constraints, priorities, and trade-offs while also identifying possible design improvements.

Engineering Design = Viable Career

Life itself is an endless process of solving problems. When we use the engineering design process, students learn that engineering design, like life itself, is an endless process of solving problems. In dealing with life’s many challenges, successful adults take the same steps as the ones that students utilize in their engineering design experiences such as identifying or stating the problem, brainstorming possible solutions and then developing or building prototypes (trying it out).

According to Cary Sneider, a leading science educator and one of the writers of the Next Generation Science Standards, understanding engineering is essential for all citizens, workers, and consumers in a modern democracy. If the U.S. is to continue to play a significant role in the world economy, it is imperative that students be exposed to engineering design and problem solving thought processes. He goes on to say that the capability to formulate and solve problems is a valuable life skill. By including engineering design in classrooms across the country, students will have access to a wider range of viable careers because they will be prepared to take the appropriate courses in high school. Exposure to engineering design is also an important aspect of equity for girls and minority students.

So get your design on and let’s promote problem solving!