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NSF & Congress

Hearing Summary - Engineering in K-12 Education

October 22, 2009

Dr. Thomas Peterson, the Assistant Director for Engineering at the National Science Foundation (NSF), testified at a hearing entitled, "Engineering in K-12 Education, " held by the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education, House Committee on Science and Technology on October 22, 2009. The hearing examined the benefits and challenges facing current methods of incorporating engineering into K-12 education.

In the opening of his testimony, Dr. Peterson, stated that the number of students interested in pursuing careers in engineering has declined. From 1994 to 2006, there has been a drop in students taking college entrance examinations that indicated a plan to pursue engineering as a career—from 7.7% in 1994 to 4.6% in 2006. In addition to the declining numbers, engineering is facing challenges in finding a diverse and qualified set of interested students.

In his testimony, Peterson said, "I believe that the presence of engineering education in the K-12 curriculum holds promise to encourage student learning in the fundamental science and mathematics subjects, to raise the level of understanding and awareness of engineering and what engineers do, to stimulate interest in a rapidly changing demographic population to pursue careers in engineering, and to increase the basic technology literary for all our citizens."

NSF supports K-12 engineering education in many ways. The Engineering Directorate supports engineering education programs through their Engineering Education and Centers and provides program support to the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate. Outside of individual efforts, the Engineering and EHR Ddirectorates have partnered on several K-12 STEM education programs. One example is the GK-12 fellowship program at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Graduate students work with a local high school to bring hands-on engineering projects to the classroom. Another partnership is the support of Design Squad, a PBS reality engineering show targeted to young students. The Engineering and EHR Directorates are constructing new mechanisms to evaluate the successes of these programs.

Other witnesses at the hearing were Dr. Linda Katehi, Chair of the National Academy of Engineering Education and Chancellor, University of California, Davis; Dr. Ioannis Miaoulis, President and Director of the Museum of Science in Boston and Founder of the National Center for Technological Literacy; Dr. Darryll Pines, Dean and Nariman Farvardin Professor of Engineering, A. James Clark School of Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park; and Mr. Rick Sandlin, Principal, Martha and Josh Morriss Mathematics and Engineering Elementary School, Texarkana, Texas.