Middle school students' perceptions of engineering

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Conference publication

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This paper focuses on implementing engineering education in middle school classrooms (grade levels 7-9). One of the aims of the study was to foster students’ and teachers’ knowledge and understanding of engineering in society. Given the increasing importance of engineering in shaping our daily lives, it is imperative that we foster in students an interest and drive to participate in engineering education, increase their awareness of engineering as a career path, and inform them of the links between engineering and the enabling subjects, mathematics, science, and technology. Data for the study are drawn from five classes across three schools. Grade 7 students’ responded to initial whole class discussions on what is an engineer, what is engineering, what characteristics engineers require, engineers (family/friends) that they know, and subjects that may facilitate an engineering career. Students generally viewed engineers as creative, future-oriented, and artistic problem finders and solvers; planners and designers; “seekers” and inventors; and builders of constructions. Students also viewed engineers as adventurous, decisive, community-minded, reliable, and “smart.” In addition to a range of mathematics and science topics, students identified business studies, ICT, graphics, art, and history as facilitating careers in engineering. Although students displayed a broadened awareness of engineering than the existing research suggests, there was limited knowledge of various engineering fields and a strong perception of engineering as large construction.