Engineering transformed societies in the twentieth century through electrification, new and faster forms of transportation, telephones, radio and television, computers and other technological advances. Who can say how our world will change in the next hundred years?
The skills that PreK-12 engineering experiences help develop will be essential to success in an environment now shaped by technology that is rapidly evolving.
Engineering provides a framework for solving problems in a variety of situations. The engineering design process, while important, is only part of this framework. The habits of mind developed through engineering experiences are equally important to responding to problems in a positive, productive fashion.
Brainstorming is a key step in the engineering design process. Being able to use knowledge, experience, and imagination to come up with many different ways to tackle a problem vastly improves the chances of finding a successful solution.
Being able to demonstrate a concept in a model or simulation or on a smaller scale is a valuable skill for many reasons. Creating models challenges a person to deeply understand and describe features and limitations. Prototypes allows for testing and redesigning at substantially lower cost or risk.
Analytical thinking is an essential skill in a world where data is being produced at an exponentially increasing rate. Through engineering experiences, K-12 students learn how to select data, how to process it into useful information, and how present their findings to others. Trying to understand why a technology is not performing adequately – and making changes to its design as a result – is a major feature of the engineering process.
Choices are always limited – even if the limits are only physical laws of nature. Choices, like actions, have consequences. Some are positive; some are not. Being able to assess possible outcomes and make choices that provide the greatest positive results, the least negative consequences, within the limits of a situation is an extremely valuable skill.
The world’s greatest idea is worthless if it cannot be shared with others. Engineering experiences provide numerous opportunities for students to communicate with team members and to make formal presentations of ideas and models to others.