Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at Stevens Institute of Technology, which has created a variety of online, problem-based K–12 engineering curricula (McKay and McGrath, 2007). Students who had participated in “Engineering is Elementary,” a program developed by the Boston Museum of Science that integrates engineering with science content for elementary students, showed improvement in a post-test measuring science and engineering knowledge (Lachapelle and Cunningham, 2007). Unfortunately, there was no control group for comparison in this study.
Engineering design has been shown to encourage mathematical thinking. Akins and Burghardt (2006) studied teams of middle and high school students who applied mathematical reasoning to solve problems in a design challenge. Pre-test results were used to disaggregate students into quartiles, and all quartiles showed improvement on math and science tests. (No tests of significance were conducted, but post-test scores were 21 percent to 125 percent higher than pre-test scores.) The authors noted that the lowest scoring teams had the highest score gains, which suggests that engineering design has the potential to narrow achievement gaps; this possibility was not noted by the researchers, however.
In some cases, standardized test scores were not impacted by student participation in engineering activities, but other measures, such as the ability to explain, analyze, predict, or reason about science, mathematics, or technology, demonstrate that the students had learned a great deal. For example, a program at one inner-city school involved designing remote-control vehicles. Although the scores of students who participated in the program did not show improvements on district-wide physics achievement tests, prepost measures showed that the students had a better understanding of the physics related to their vehicles (Barnett, 2005).
In the “Integrated Mathematics, Science, and Technology” (IMaST) curriculum project, participating students and non-IMaST students had similar gains on state mathematics and science achievement tests, but IMaST students scored higher on TIMSS math items than students in a control group (Satchwell and Loepp, 2002). Notably, IMaST students scored higher on measures related to “process” (i.e., mathematical problem solving and science inquiry) whereas the control students scored higher on measures related to “knowing” (i.e., understanding routine mathematics operations and scientific information).
A few studies have been done on the potential of K–12 engineering to differentially affect math and science achievement among girls and underrepresented minorities. In a middle-school study of modules in which engi-