ASEE Draft Engineering Standards This chapter is focused on “Dimension 2: Connecting Science and Mathematics to Engineering” of the ASEE Corporate Members Council Draft Engineering Standards; these draft standards will serve as input to the National Academy of Engineering process of considering engineering standards for K-12 education. This dimension includes the following outcomes:
- Students will develop an understanding of the essential concepts and application of science and mathematics as they pertain to engineering design.
- Students will be able to apply concepts of science and mathematics in an engineering design process.
Student Preconceptions about Engineering and the Math and Science Connections
Students hold many preconceptions about who engineers are, what they do, and how science and math connect to their activities. These preconceptions may negatively affect precollege students’ decisions about considering engineering as a career, especially so for females and minorities. Some preconceptions are discipline specific and some are for engineering in general.
What do engineers do? Some precollege students believe that engineers work mainly on technical hands-on activities such as repairing cars, installing wiring, driving machines, and constructing buildings but do not work on activities such as designing things, designing for clean water, and supervising construction.
Who can be an engineer? Precollege students and their teachers often believe that females and minorities less likely to succeed when they intend to go into the engineering profession.
Chemical engineering preconceptions. Precollege students believe that chemical engineers principally work in their own labs; work in dirty and unsafe places; and do not care about the environment.
Math and science ability. Many middle and high school students believe that, in order to succeed in studying the subjects of engineering, mathematics, or science in college, a person must have to be very smart and/or have a talent for those subjects.
The nerd factor. Students’ images of professionals are strongly influenced by media stereotypes, so they think of scientists and engineers as brainy, absentminded, unkempt, and wild-haired eccentrics. Many do not know any real scientists or engineers.
Financial aid. Many middle school and high school students do not think there are resources to help support their higher education. Their lack of awareness of financial assistance may prevent them from enrolling in engineering where there are multiple resources such as scholarships, company internships, and undergraduate research.
Career opportunities. In one middle school students had unrealistic career expectations. A survey revealed that three-quarters of them thought they could become scientists or engineers, but the same number also thought they could become professional athletes. With 4 million people in US STEM careers and 3,500 in professional athletics, the odds are about 1,000 to 1 in favor of a student having a STEM career compared to becoming a professional athlete. This seems like a good reason to consider enrolling in math and science classes in precollege education.