Adding engineering into your middle school classroom is a great way to deepen your students’ learning and problem-solving skills. Take this self-guided tutorial and learn to identify common engineering myths, build your understanding of the engineering design process and how to apply it to hands-on activities, and get concrete steps you can use to easily integrate engineering. This training is offered at three grade bands: Elementary, Middle and High.
Bringing Engineering to Life
in Middle School
An online tutorial for middle school teachers
1. Why Teach Engineering?
2. Engineering Myths and Truths
3. The EDP (Engineering Design
4. Classroom Connections
5. Engineering Suggestions
You be a better teacher
Your students be better learners
ENGINEERING CAN HELP
Engineering takes advantage of children’s inherent
interest in how things work and offers a practical,
efficient way to teach STEM.
Engineering often improves
learning and student achievement
in science and math.
“Why Use Engineering in Education?”
National Academy of Engineering
Engineering “clarifies the relevance
of science, technology, engineering,
and mathematics to everyday life.”
Next Generation Science Standards
WHY TEACH ENGINEERING?
The E in STEM pulls
it all together.
Doing engineering inspires a much
broader range of students than
you might expect to consider a
Why should kids wait until high
school to do what comes naturally
to them now, when engineering
can help them learn in so many
Engineers are guys in hard
hats who do math problems
Engineers are diverse and
come to the profession with
a passion to solve real-
There are many stereotypes
Myths and Truths
Engineering is basically the same
thing as science, and you’re
already teaching science.
They are different and
Science answers questions
Engineering solves problems
Science is familiar and you know
how to teach it, but engineering is
Science and engineering overlap.
Examples of skills necessary to both:
Plan and carry out investigations.
Construct and interpret graphs.
Evaluate competing design solutions.
Engineering is dry and pragmatic,
focused on facts and numbers. It’s
not imaginative or artistic.
Engineers use their creativity and
analytical skills to invent, design, and
build things that matter. By finding
imaginative and practical solutions,
engineers are changing the world all
Only certain kinds of kids are going
to become engineers, and there
aren’t that many of them.
Exposing middle schoolers to
the wide range of
opportunities in engineering
gets many of them really
excited about becoming
You need a professional degree
in math, technology, or physics
in order to understand or teach
engineering at the middle
No particular professional degree
required—just curiosity from you
and your students to explore how
You also need to understand the
Engineering Design Process, which
you are about to learn.
All engineers use the
What does the EDP look like in a
middle school classroom?
BUILD A CANDY DISPENSER ACTIVITY
Make a candy dispenser that gives
out a little bit of candy at a time.
• Glue gun
• X-ACTO knife
• Pieces of candy
• Paper plate
• Craft sticks
Make a dispenser that gives
a little bit of candy at a
• Use at least 10 of the
• The dispenser must
dispense only a few pieces
of candy at a time
• Examine materials
• Discuss their uses,
• Explore potential solutions
• Choose one idea
• Draw pictures
• Discuss how it will work
• Ask what might not work
• Designs will evolve
• It’s a messy, loud stage
• It’s worth it…it makes
engineering come to life!
• Set up testing zone
• Record results
• Redesign to improve
• Add requirements for kids
who need more of a challenge
Test, Improve, Redesign
• Students present their
• Discuss what worked, what
• Say what they liked about
each other’s designs
Engineers move back and forth
among these steps. They might share
results at any point, for example, and
use feedback to go back to
Students will try to skip steps, like
design, and go right to build.
When planning, decide how much
time students will spend on each
step. You’ll also notice that some
activities emphasize certain steps
more than others.
Engineering design process
Three Teaching Methods
Deepen students’ exploration of
topics that are already part of
DiscoverE Activity Classroom Topic
Build an air-powered gondola Propulsion
Make a water filtration
Design a spaceship Space exploration
Make a glowing light stick Electrical circuits
If you are doing a social studies unit
on science, technology, and society,
add a real-world engineering project.
A local city planner or engineer
to talk about planning a
playground. Students may be
surprised to hear how much
thought goes into the design of
a swing, slide, or other
Next, do the DiscoverE
marble run activity.
MARBLE RUN ACTIVITY
Create a track that keeps a marble
rolling longer than any other team’s
• Plastic cups
• Paper towel tubes
• Masking tape
Expand on what students learned
by studying an actual roller
coaster, preferably a local one.
Or show them this next video…
Show students the Sum of All Thrills video about
designing roller coasters.
Invite engineers to your
classroom to talk to your
Local chapters of engineering
Local engineering companies
FIND GUEST ENGINEERS
Connect engineering to what
matters to middle schoolers. For
example, they can do the
DiscoverE activity Design a Shoe,
and then see a video about
designing a skateboarding shoe.