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Archived Information

Science and Technology/Engineering
Curriculum Framework - Spring 2001

Strand 4 : Technology/ Engineering

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Science tries to understand the natural world. Based on the knowledge that scientists develop, the goal of engineering is to solve practical problems through the development or use of technologies. For example, the planning, designing, and construction of the Central Artery Tunnel project in Boston (commonly referred to as the "Big Dig") is a complex and technologically challenging project that draws on knowledge of earth science, physics, and construction and transportation technologies.

Technology/engineering works in conjunction with science to expand our capacity to understand the world. For example, scientists and engineers apply scientific knowledge of light to develop lasers and fiber optic technologies and other technologies in medical imaging. They also apply this scientific knowledge to develop such modern communications technologies as telephones, fax machines, and electronic mail.

The Realationship Among Science, Engineering, and Technology

Although the term technology is often used by itself to describe the educational application of computers in a classroom, instructional technology is a subset of the much broader field of technology. While important, computers and instructional tools that use computers are only a few of the many technological innovations in use today.

Technologies developed through engineering include the systems that provide our houses with water and heat; roads, bridges, tunnels, and the cars that we drive; airplanes and spacecraft; cellular phones, televisions, and computers; many of today's children's toys; and systems that create special effects in movies. Each of these came about as the result of recognizing a need or problem and creating a technological solution. Figure 1 below shows the steps of the engineering design process. Beginning in the early grades and continuing through high school, students carry out this design process in ever more sophisticated ways. As they gain more experience and knowledge, they are able to draw on other disciplines, especially mathematics and science, to understand and solve problems.

Students are experienced technology users before they enter school. Their natural curiosity about how things work is clear to any adult who has ever watched a child doggedly work to improve the design of a paper airplane, or to take apart a toy to explore its insides. They are also natural engineers and inventors, builders of sandcastles at the beach and forts under furniture. Most students in grades PrePreK-2 are fascinated with technology. While learning the safe use of tools and materials that underlie engineering solutions, they are encouraged to manipulate materials that enhance their three-dimensional visualization skills-an essential component of the ability to design. They identify and describe characteristics of natural and manmade materials and their possible uses and identify the use of basic tools and materials, e.g., glue, scissors, tape, ruler, paper, toothpicks, straws, and spools. In addition, students at this level learn to identify tools and simple machines used for a specific purpose (e.g., ramp, wheel, pulley, lever) and describe how human beings use parts of the body as tools.

Students in grades 3-5 learn how appropriate materials, tools, and machines extend our ability to solve problems and invent. They identify materials used to accomplish a design task based on a specific property and explain which materials and tools are appropriate to construct a given prototype. They achieve a higher level of engineering design skill by recognizing a need or problem, learn different ways that the problem can be represented, and work with a variety of materials and tools to create a product or system to address it.

In grades 6-8, students pursue engineering questions and technological solutions that emphasize research and problem solving. They identify and understand the five elements of a technology system (goal, inputs, processes, outputs, and feedback). They acquire basic skills in the safe use of hand tools, power tools, and machines. They explore engineering design; materials, tools, and machines; and communication, manufacturing, construction, transportation, and bioengineering technologies. Starting in these grades and extending through grade 10, the topics of power and energy are incorporated into the study of most areas of technology. Students integrate knowledge they acquired in their mathematics and science curricula to understand the links to engineering. They achieve a more advanced level of skill in engineering design by learning to conceptualize a problem, design prototypes in three dimensions, and use hand and power tools to construct their prototypes, test their prototypes, and make modifications as necessary. The culmination of the engineering design experience is the development and delivery of an engineering presentation.

Steps of the Engineering Design Process
  1. Identify the need or problem
  2. Research the need or problem
    • Examine current state of the issue and current solutions
    • Explore other options via the internet, library, interviews, etc.
  3. Develop possible solution(s)
    • Brainstorm possible solutions
    • Draw on mathematics and science
    • Articulate the possible solutions in two and three dimensions
    • Refine the possible solutions
  4. Select the best possible solution(s)
    • Determine which solution(s) best meet(s) the original requirements
  5. Construct a prototype
    • Model the selected solution(s) in two and three dimensions
  6. Test and evaluate the solution(s)
    • does it work?
    • does it meet the original design constraints?
  7. Communicate the solution(s)
    • Make an engineering presentation that includes a discussion of how the solution(s) best meet(s) the needs of the initial problem, opportunity, or need
    • Discuss societal impact and tradeoffs of the solution(s)
  8. Redesign
    • Overhaul the solution(s) based on information gathered during the tests and presentation

Students in grades 9 and 10 learn to apply scientific and mathematical knowledge in a full-year, comprehensive technology/engineering course. The topics addressed include engineering design; construction technologies; power and energy technologies in fluid, thermal, and electrical systems; communication technologies; and manufacturing technologies. Students engage in experiences that enhance their skills in designing, building, and testing prototypes. The culmination of this level of design experience is also the development and delivery of an engineering presentation.

Technology/engineering curricula in grades 11 and 12 follow the approaches used for the previous two grades but expand in a variety of areas based on available school expertise and student interest. Students may explore advanced technology/engineering curricula such as automation and robotics, multimedia, architecture and planning, biotechnology, and computer information systems. They may continue building on their background in engineering design by working on inventions. Course offerings in the high school grades should engage students who are interested in:

  • expanding their studies in the area of engineering and technology because they are interested in a college-level engineering program,
  • pursuing career pathways in relevant technology fields, or
  • learning about certain areas of technology/engineering to expand their general educational background, but who will not necessarily follow a technical career.

All areas of study should be taught by teachers who are certified in that discipline. Because of the hands-on, active nature of the technology/engineering environment, it is strongly recommended that it be taught in the middle and high school by teachers who are certified in technology education, and who are very familiar with the safe use of tools and machines.

Last Updated: May 1, 2001
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