Engineering education with fourth-grade students : Introducing design-based problem solving

Journal article


English, Lyn D. and King, Donna. (2017). Engineering education with fourth-grade students : Introducing design-based problem solving. International Journal of Engineering Education. 33(1), pp. 346-360.
AuthorsEnglish, Lyn D. and King, Donna
Abstract

This article reports on fourth-grade students' approaches to solving an introductory engineering design-based problem, namely, Tumbling Towers, which was implemented at the beginning of a three-year, longitudinal study. Set within a civil engineering context, the problem required student groups to design and then build the tallest tower within given constraints. The stability of their towers was tested by removing one pylon at a time, with the goal being to determine the minimum number needed for the tower to remain stable. Students completed a second design iteration in an effort to maximise the number of pylons that could be removed while still maintaining stability. A framework comprising five sets of engineering design processes was developed as a theoretical base and facilitated data analyses. Findings illustrate how fourth-grade students, for whom such problems were new, engaged in design processes in an iterative manner and applied mathematics and science content knowledge in doing so. Four levels of design were identified in the students' design sketches with the highest level being the most frequent in both initial designs and redesigns, with some decline in the latter. Students' application of content knowledge included an awareness of stability and load distribution, together with spatial reasoning involving pylon positioning, removal, and repositioning. Other findings include ways in which group negotiations and students' addition of meaningful contexts assisted in the designing and redesigning phases, and how students spontaneously used gestures to convey their design and construction ideas.

Keywordsdesign processes; engineering education; engineering-based problem solving; elementary/primary school
Year2017
JournalInternational Journal of Engineering Education
Journal citation33 (1), pp. 346-360
PublisherDublin Institute of Technology Tempus Publications
ISSN0949-149X
Research or scholarlyResearch
Page range346-360
FunderAustralian Research Council
Publisher's version
License
All rights reserved
File Access Level
Controlled
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Print2017
Publication process dates
Accepted15 Oct 2016
Deposited07 Sep 2021
ARC Funded ResearchThis output has been funded, wholly or partially, under the Australian Research Council Act 2001
Grant IDARC/LP120200023
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