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Engineering in K–12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects
and engineering; state departments of education; teacher licensing and certification groups; and STEM program accreditors. ASEE should consult with the National Center for Engineering and Technology Education, which has conducted research on this topic.
The lack of diversity in post-secondary engineering education and the engineering workforce in the United States is well documented. Based on evaluation data, analysis of curriculum materials, anecdotal reports, and personal observation, the committee concluded that lack of diversity is probably an issue for K–12 engineering education as well. This problem is manifested in two ways. First, the number of girls and underrepresented minorities who participate in K–12 engineering education initiatives is well below their numbers in the general population. Second, with a few exceptions, curricular materials do not portray engineering in ways that seem likely to excite the interest of students from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. For K–12 engineering education to yield the many benefits its supporters claim, access and participation will have to be expanded considerably.
RECOMMENDATION 5. Given the demographic trends in the United States and the challenges of attracting girls, African Americans, Hispanics, and some Asian subpopulations to engineering studies, K–12 engineering curricula should be developed with special attention to features which appeal to students from these underrepresented groups, and programs that promote K–12 engineering education should be strategic in their outreach to these populations. Both curriculum developers and outreach organizations should take advantage of recent market research that suggests effective ways of communicating about engineering to the public.
POLICY AND PROGRAM ISSUES
Although many unanswered questions about K–12 engineering education remain, engineering is being taught in K–12 schools around the country, and it appears that the trend is upward. Thus it is imperative that we begin to think about ways to guide and support engineering education in the future. An underlying question for policy makers is how engineering concepts, skills, and habits of mind should be introduced into the school curriculum. There are at least three options—ad hoc infusion, stand-alone courses, and