The Minnesota 4-H program is increasing efforts to enhance science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) program opportunities, specifically focusing on the E -- engineering and the engineering process.
What is the engineering process? This is National Engineers Week, and it seems important to explain how the engineering process is different from, but related to, inquiry. Inquiry is about asking questions in depth. It has these phases: sparking curiosity, articulating curiosity into questions, systematically investigating questions, interpreting the meaning of results, and improving ideas and explanations.
Engineering, in the simplest terms, is about solving problems. It is the application of science, mathematics, economics, and experience to design products, processes, or services. The engineering design process is used to fulfill these goals, through a systematic and iterative approach that involves asking questions, imagining solutions, planning things out, creating, optimizing and improving.
According to Dym, et. al. in their article, Engineering Design Thinking, Teaching, and Learning, "Design thinking reflects the complex processes of inquiry and learning that designers perform in a systems context, making decisions as they proceed, often working collaboratively on teams in a social process, and "speaking" several languages with each other (and to themselves)."
In Minnesota 4-H we support youth STEM learning through a variety of project areas. This includes robotics, aquatic robotics, and new this year, the 4-H Engineering Design Challenge -- the Rube Goldberg Machine contest.
The 4-H Engineering Design Challenge will engage and, yes, challenge youth to develop 21st century learning and innovation skills -- critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity. I am already excited and energized by this!
What are strategies you recommend for elevating and discovering engineering design? What will we find as we continue to elevate and refine engineering design in the Minnesota 4-H STEM program?
-- Rebecca Meyer, Extension educator
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