Doug Paulson STEM Specialist Minnesota Dept. of Education

Precollege Engineering in Japan and the US

PostedFriday, June 2, 2017 at 1:33 PM

In Engineering in K-12 Education, the National Academies did not examine the development of precollege engineering in foreign countries as it had in the United States. Therefore, I was excited to travel to Japan with Drs. Gillian Roehrig and Julie Brown and a team from the University of Minnesota to study and guest lecture at Shizuoka University through an invite by Dr. Yoshisuke Kumano. It gave me an opportunity to learn how engineering was approached in Japan in the precollege setting and to share with our new colleagues some of our experiences in the US.
Dr. Julie Brown

STEM education is a relatively new concept in Japan, and the schools we visited had a great enthusiasm for learning about and understanding STEM. Curriculum for traditional mathematics and science education as well as vocational training was common in many of the schools. When engineering was present, it was used as a way for students to apply science concepts, and it served as a catalyst for learning. But It was not explicitly called out as “engineering.” This may change, though, as schools transition to more of an integrated STEM approach in the future.

Japan does have some specialized schools for science and technology. Students in these schools are able to develop deeper understanding of content as well as trade skills. As a capstone for students at the Super Science Schools, for example, students do self-study on a topic of interest to them. Among the projects we observed were an evaluation of the erosion from the mountain; the design of a forest to minimize the erosion; design of a piston for a car; and design of a robotic vehicle. In discussions about what students were doing in the classroom, teachers identified problem solving, creativity, thinking in systems, and working together as some of the benefits students got from engineering. They also saw opportunities to challenge the students’ science and mathematics understanding through engineering-based learning opportunities.

In addition to K12 schools exploring the role of engineering in STEM, the collegiate engineering faculty were also excited to promote engineering with K12 education and collaborate across disciplines at the university. One of the faculty at Shizuoka University, Dr. Yasuhiro Matsunaga, shared his research on passive walking toys. He worked with students in designing the toys and then engaged them with physics lessons as they played to make the toy “walk” down an inclined plane.

Dr. Yasuhiro Matsunaga

Understanding how other countries utilize engineering in precollege settings can help with the innovation of engineering education in the US. LinkEngineering was developed as a community for educators to share ways of implementing engineering in classrooms across the country. It’s exciting to think about engineering in other settings beyond the United States.

Please considering sharing your experiences with engineering in other areas of the world!

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