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UMd receives grant to develop high school engineering courses

1a-tuition-um-univeristy-of-maryland-college-parkmf54The University of Maryland, College Park will lead a pilot program to design and test an engineering dual credit course as engineering looks to become a more critical part of high school education.

The program, funded by a $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation, will be led by the University of Maryland, partnering with Morgan State University, Arizona State University and Virginia Tech.

“These kinds of dual credit programs do exist, but (not) particularly in engineering. Because engineering has not had its own separate discipline, (it has not been addressed in a meaningful way),” said Margaret McLaughlin, associate dean for research and innovation and partnerships at the University of Maryland’s College of Education. “Yet, it’s such a core piece, particularly of the new science standard.”

The developing program will develop a nationwide pre-college course on engineering principles and design. The program, Engineering For US All, aims to create a standardized engineering program that could put students on the path to achieving college engineering credit while in high school.

“Oftentimes engineering is not a word that is heard in K-12,” said Don Millard, acting division director of engineering education and centers at the National Science Foundation. “Hopefully students who are able to pursue this type of program would hopefully be able to receive credit.”

The foundation hopes that the pilot can eventually lead to an official advanced placement course and test for engineering. One of the partners working on the pilot will be the College Board, which administers advanced placement tests.

The pilot will put more than 1,000 students at 40 high schools on pace to complete the program over three years.

Darryll Pines, dean of the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering, will serve as the pilot’s principal investigator.

Engineering could soon be a core part of high school curriculum, but there needs to be real forethought about putting these programs in place, McLaughlin said.

“If you’re familiar with the Next Generation Science Standards and that whole work that’s been recently done, to think about science not as the siloed disciplines, but almost as a whole, engineering is kind of the fulcrum, it’s the hub for that,” she said.

But developing those courses will take planning and thought, she added. Part of that will be developing a next generation of teachers for these engineering classes. It is estimated that hundreds of engineering educators will be involved in this pilot.

Right now, teachers of engineering courses that exist in high schools may have some engineering background, but it is also likely that their teaching certificate is in math, science or another related discipline. The first phase of the pilot will involve training the teachers.

“We’ve always been in this chicken and egg situation where if you didn’t have a course … you didn’t really have a market for teachers trained in that,” McLaughlin said. “One won’t work without the other.”

This story has been updated to add some context to McLaughlin’s first quote.

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