To understand and promote engineering education in elementary schools.
The goal of the EEC (double E C) project is to create a PK to grade 6 engineering experience based on robotics. Each year, students will have at least one robotics experience. In grades K, 2, 4, and 6 students will also have an open ended engineering challenge. We will explicitly teach the engineering design process as appropriate to the grade level. Robotics provides very high interest, motivating, and deep learning experience for students.
There are many reasons for introducing engineering to students early in their academic experience. First, students will need 21st Century skills for successful careers. These skills differ from skills traditional taught in schools. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills defines the 4 Cs -communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking as critically needed by our citizens in the future. Second, the EEC is very rich not only in engineering but in science, math, and technology. English Language skills are also used in the curriculum. Third, the EEC will benefit both girls and boys. We have seen many boys that may be struggling with reading and attention issues really shine when it comes to robotics. For the first time, they are seen as leaders in the classroom. Additionally, girls that may not have had experience with Legos will be gain experience with engineering and building with Legos. Research shows that we cannot wait until middle school and high school to expose girls to science and engineering. Finally, robotics is a very high interest, motivating, and deep experience for students. Their level of understanding is much deeper when actually using and building these machines.
Typically, early elementary students have few, if any, engineering experiences. The essential question of the EEC project is: how would students look if they received engineering education from grades PK to grade 6? Although we hope the project will contribute to the pool of talented STEM workers in the future to maintain US competitiveness, we believe engineering to be a valuable way of thinking that will benefit all. In today’s media environment, many citizens have trouble distinguishing facts from opinions and also have difficulty with complex scientific theories. Engineering provides a clear way of testing hypotheses, doing research, and determining objective measures of physical processes. The EEC project will teach valuable skills in engineering and many other subjects in a fun and deep way.
The EEC idea grew out of a Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education grant, now ended, which provided robotics training to 40 teachers and 1500 students at various grade levels in eight different school districts in Western Massachusetts. The natural extension of the initial grant is to provide a robotics experience every year, instead of one or two experiences total in elementary school.