Great Lakes Bay Region STEM Initiative staff attended a national STEM Ecosystem event recently where there were several sessions on engineering design that pertain to the new Michigan science curriculum. Incorporating quality engineering opportunities into K-12 classrooms and Out-of-School Time (OST) experiences that ALL students experience regularly is a challenge. Two resources were shared that could provide assistance for teachers and OST providers in the region. One resource is Link Engineering (https://www.linkengineering.org) and the other is Engineering is Elementary (http://www.eie.org). The key instructional aspect that needs further clarification and consistency in implementation is the difference between engineering and inquiry. The Link Engineering site explains this well in the following excerpt:

“How are engineering design and science inquiry different?

Science is commonly described as the study of the natural world through observation and experimentation. In PreK-12 settings, it usually refers to “natural” sciences: physics, chemistry, biology, and earth, space, and environmental sciences. Like engineers, scientists also use a reasoning process to solve problems: scientific inquiry.

Science inquiry and engineering design use similar cognitive tools such as brainstorming, reasoning by analogy, mental models, and visual representations.  Scientists use these tools to ask questions about the world around us and try to deduce rules that explain the patterns we see. Engineers use them to modify the world to satisfy people’s needs and wants.

“Scientists discover the world that exists; engineers create the world that never was.”

Theodore von Karman, co-founder of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

In the real world today, engineering and science cannot be neatly separated. Scientific knowledge informs engineering design, and many scientific advances would not be possible without technological tools developed by engineers.”

Explore the differences between engineering and science practices through resources available at www.linkengineering.org or www.eie.org.