Virginia Tech is partnering on a National Science Foundation (NSF) $4 million grant to pilot a program to create an advanced high school course in engineering principles and design and to develop a training program to prepare teachers.

Partners in the project are the University of Maryland, Arizona State University, Vanderbilt University, and Morgan State University.

Ken Reid, associate professor of engineering education in the College of Engineering, will lead Virginia Tech’s effort on the NSF Engineering for U.S. All initiative to develop and implement professional development programs for teachers and explore different paths toward teacher certification in Virginia, especially in STEM areas.

“In the first year, we will help implement pilots in five schools, seeking a diverse pool of teachers, then we will expand the pool beyond the initial cohort,” said Reid. “Ultimately, the goal of the project is to create a nationally recognized high school engineering course that will provide students with transferable college level credit and develop an effective teacher training program."

Reid will work to identify teachers and schools from rural, suburban, and urban areas with students of diverse economic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds that have an interest in piloting the program. Approximately 40 high schools and 1,400 students will participate in the pilot nationwide.

During the pilot, the researchers will refine a curriculum developed in cooperation with leadership of the College Board and engineering deans through the American Society for Engineering Education. The curriculum will integrate engineering principles and include an engineering design project. The curriculum will align with the Next Generation Science Standards for K-12 education, developed by 26 states and other partners.

"NSF helps build the nation’s future engineering workforce, and a key part of that is enabling more students to have access to and preparation for undergraduate engineering education," said Dawn Tilbury, assistant director of NSF’s Directorate for Engineering. "A standardized high school engineering course will help remove the mystery and democratize the learning and practice of engineering."

Together, the team of universities with NASA Goddard will create and deploy a national professional development program that prepares pre-college teachers to teach the curriculum effectively and assess student design projects based on uniform standards.

By the completion of the pilot, hundreds of engineering educators will be involved in shaping the curriculum and training programs, including high school teachers, who are integral to the project’s success. A web-based tool will help researchers track and evaluate the learning and practice of engineering concepts by teachers and students.

For high school students, the one-year course will be directly transferable, equivalent to placement credit for an introductory college class, a core engineering class, or a substitute required course in the general education sequence.

STEM-trained teachers will instruct and assess engineering principles and design-based experiences, and therefore become cornerstones supporting the introduction of engineering principles and design as specified in the Next Generation Science Standards.