Buildings, Bridges and Barriers: Engineering for K-12

September 14, 2009

"What is an engineer?" is a question that many middle and high school students cannot answer. A collaborative team of UNL engineers (Dr. Larry Rilett) and educators (Drs. Gina Kunz and Gwen Nugent), together with the Nebraska Department of Education (Tony Glenn), are helping middle and high school students and their teachers understand engineering and the real life math, science, and technology applications that are the essence of this field. When we approach a stop light, cross a street, drive across a bridge, or survive a car accident, we can appreciate the reality of engineering in practice.

The UNL Professional Development Science and Math Summer Institute, funded by the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education and the U.S. Department of Transportation, is advancing the knowledge and skills of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) middle and high school educators and their students.

Teachers participate in discussions with engineers about their research related to safety barriers, road design, and radiofrequency identification; visit various sites where the research has been put into action; and develop lesson plans that they use in classrooms with their students. Teacher and student participants have demonstrated increases in their knowledge of engineering, and students have shown increases in positive attitudes towards math, science, and engineering.

The success of the nation relies on future leaders in engineering fields. This project reaches out to teachers and students throughout Nebraska, with plans to expand efforts regionally and nationally, to promote such leadership.