Minnesota Integrates Engineering Standards with Science Standards
In the 2009 revision of Minnesota’s Academic Standards for Science, MN decided to integrate engineering standards into the science standards in all grades (K-12). As such, the integrated standards (including the engineering standards) are now required for all K-12 MN public school students. School districts have the autonomy to determine which teachers or departments will be assigned to teach the standards and in which courses, but the engineering standards will be assessed in the next iteration of MCA science tests at grades 5, 8 and 10. The decision to integrate the engineering standards with the science standards is consistent with the direction that many other states have taken and is also the direction that the Next Generation Science Standards have taken. The integration of these two topics moves MN in the direction of a true STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) model.
Most MN school districts adopted and began teaching the 2009 Academic Standards for Science in the 2010-2011 school year – including the engineering standards. Since the engineering content in these standards is new to most teachers, SciMathMN and the MN Department of Education developed Frameworks to help teachers translate the standards into classroom practice, and those resources can be found at the MN STEM Teacher Center.
The MN integrated science and engineering standards can be found here.
The Rapid Growth of Engineering Education
With the proliferation of educational websites, science and engineering fairs, robotics, and other competitions, there is a wealth of effort being put forth by industry, engineering organizations, educational institutions, and individual companies to encourage boys and girls from kindergarten through high school to consider engineering as a career.
If successful–and there are some signs they may be–they will help allay concerns of many who have long worried about both how the U.S. stacks up against other nations in the field of engineering as well as the shortage of engineering talent.
Accessibility to information on the Internet presented in an engaging way has enabled the industry to begin introducing engineering to younger and younger boys and girls. Coupled with more hands-on activities and events involving topics such as robotics, such access is making engineering more familiar field.
For example, the American Society for Engineering Education runs a program called eGFI, named after the original element in the integrated program, the magazine Engineering, Go For It!. The integrated program, designed to improve K-12 STEM and engineering education, now includes an interactive website, the magazine, teacher and student e-newsletters, an eGFI poster, flash cards, and kids’ book.
Even the Boy Scouts introduced a robotics merit badge, and the magazine Make runs the Maker Faire, a family event held in different cities each year that incorporates an engineering element for “makers” to show what they have made.
On some sites, youngsters can read about engineers’ personal stories of how they made a decision to choose that field. On the website, Engineer Your Life, a young woman, Judy Lee, tells how she decided to go into engineering in high school but didn’t decide on mechanical engineering until grad school, when she was inspired by a young Swedish engineer who designed children’s products, which is exactly what Ms. Lee wanted to do. “Instantly this woman became my idol,” she writes. The site is described as a guide to engineering for high school girls, and it’s produced by a coalition of entities involved in engineering. The National Academy of Engineering sponsors a similar site, Engineer Girl, aimed at middle school girls.