School of Graduate Studies




October 10, 2012

USU researcher brings engineering design to high schoolers

Engineering professor Christine Hailey will wrap up this year’s quarterly Sunrise Sessions with her research presentation on growing engineering education in high schools.

Mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Christine Hailey will talk about the goals of engineering design in the high school setting during this year’s final Sunrise Session, set for Oct. 26. Hailey, who is also the associate dean of the College of Engineering, will examine ways to get high school students motivated to do engineering.

The engineering design process develops a solution by integrating science, technology and mathematical knowledge. An example of an engineering design project is the improvement of a bathing transfer system for a muscular dystrophy patient who needs a device to get in and out of a bathtub.

“A design challenge is not ‘gadgeteering,’ tinkering or random modifications,” said Hailey. “It’s doesn’t entail craft activities or scientific inquiry.”

Instead, engineering educators teach the engineering process, from identifying a need, researching the problem, and designing and testing solutions.

The goals of engineering design are to promote engineering habits such as problem solving abilities, improved understanding of science, technology and mathematics concepts, greater interest in engineering, and enhancing self-efficacy to solve engineering problems.

“Design challenges need to be socially relevant and interesting to students,” said Hailey. “It requires a paradigm shift from the ‘traditional’ classroom where the learning environment should facilitate collaborative student work, as well as authentic problems of personal and social relevance.”

Hailey’s research is part of a $10 million project funded by the National Science Foundation. The collaborative network of scholars and projects is operated by the National Center for Engineering and Technology Education. Its mission is to build capacity in technology education and improve understanding of the learning and teaching of high school students as they apply engineering design processes to technological problems.

USU is the lead university for the NCETE, and it includes collaboration with other universities such as Brigham Young University, the University of Minnesota and the University of Georgia. The center has been funded by NSF since 2004.

At USU’s Sunrise Sessions, faculty and students share their research with alumni, community and business leaders from the Salt Lake area. Held quarterly in downtown Salt Lake City, these early-morning presentations detail how USU research is addressing pressing issues such as the obesity epidemic and hearing loss in children. All are invited to attend these events at no charge, courtesy of the generous sponsorship by Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield.

- Nadiah Johari