USC Viterbi K-12 STEM Center spearheads new program to bring engineering education to local schools – USC Viterbi

The new program aims to give middle and high school students a unique opportunity to learn engineering in a classroom setting. (Photo courtesy of USC Viterbi Flickr)

“Engineers are the hidden enablers of everything we take for granted in modern life,” said Hayaatun SillemUK CEO Royal Academy of Engineering.

“From turning on the tap, to the smartphones we check the moment we wake up, to clean energy, to access to medicine, engineers literally design and deliver the physical and digital infrastructure, the services on which we count every day—even if we are totally unaware of it.

In short, through technology and innovation, engineers have shaped the world we live in today, and they will continue to shape our future.

Why then, do so few K-12 schools incorporate engineering education into their curriculum? Why are K-12 science and math mostly taught disjointedly, with no understanding of how these subjects are intertwined in real-world engineering? These issues have drawn the attention of Dr Curtis Lingco-founder and CTO of MaxLinear, a highly successful semiconductor chip design company based in Carlsbad, California. Despite the critical importance of engineering, most students graduate from high school without understanding how it ties their knowledge into a powerful general problem-solving discipline.

The Engineers Foundation STEM K-12 curriculum, launched this spring at USC Viterbi School of Engineering, aims to address this challenge.

The program, which is made possible by a $500,000 gift from the Engineers Foundation (founded by Dr. Ling), will bring USC Viterbi undergraduate and master’s students into middle and high school classrooms, where they will work with local teachers to bring STEM topics alive by applying them to solve real-world problems in engineering and computer science.

“The goal of this program is to bridge the gap between K-12 and engineering taught at the university level, as well as to attract a wide range of talents and personalities in engineering fields,” said Dr. Ling. “I see this program as a laboratory to continue to discover what is most effective in engaging engineering students early enough in life to make engineering a career option for them.

The program is expected to launch a pilot project at the end of March and run for the next 4 years. During the program, USC Viterbi students will spend approximately 10 hours per week in local classrooms: co-teaching with teachers; leading practical activities, experiments and projects; and serve as a resource and role model for young students interested in engineering. According to the program director, Gisele Ragusea professor of engineering education practice at USC Viterbi and co-chair and director of the USC STEM Education Consortium, the program aims to eventually give approximately 4,000 middle and high school students each year the opportunity to learn about STEM content and experience it in an innovative way.

The Engineers Foundation STEM K-12 curriculum will focus on exposing students to cutting-edge engineering research, with lessons based on current research projects from the University’s research labs. USC Viterbi. Course topics may include how artificial intelligence can be applied to the transportation industry, how materials science and chemical engineering are needed in the development of effective safety and sanitation protocols against COVID-19, or how environmental engineering can be applied to the study of climate change, according to Raguse.

As program director, Ragusa will work with fellow faculty and students at USC Viterbi, as well as local K-12 teachers, to develop and implement lesson plans for the program.

“Through this program, we really want to change middle and high school students’ abstract perceptions of engineering and demonstrate to students how relevant it is in their daily lives,” Ragusa said. “This is precisely what motivates children to learn.”

“We want to give students the opportunity to understand how the disciplines of engineering and computer science directly impact them and inspire them on the role they can play in addressing real-world challenges that impact their life and on society,” added Ragusa.

Posted on February 11, 2022

Last updated on February 11, 2022

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