Highlighting the E of STEM: an open tool for teachers to broaden the knowledge of engineers as authors of well-known social improvements
The project Engineers & STEM contributes to a better understanding of the E of STEM highlighting the role of engineer’s contribution to the development of society. It is addressed to teachers and students of primary, secondary (K-12), and engineering education. Objectives, methodology, results, and interactive debate will be presented.
Engineers aim to solve problems concerning society. Far from the outdated definition that engineering is only an application of mathematics and science, which is far from reality, engineering is a social activity framed in the cultural and economic context of each era, an activity of great importance for societies as it facilitates problem solving and innovation [1, 2]. Many STEM programs focus on science, technology, and mathematics developments, but proposals concerning engineering are very scarce. In addition, the literature on engineer and engineering perceptions of teachers and students in STEM education reveals narrow and stereotypical conceptions that lead to a misconception of Engineering [3-6]. To overcome these barriers, this proposal presents Engineers& STEM, a project which aim is to contribute to a better understanding of the E of STEM worldwide by highlighting the role of engineer’s contribution to the development of well-known social, scientific, and technological developments. The project is addressed to teachers and students of primary education, secondary education (K-12), and engineering education, providing them with a set of case studies that can be used for classroom assignments or open discussion issues within the frame of any STEM education program. The materials developed, allocated in the project website, could be used for free by teachers and students at any level, as they could decide how to integrate them in their respective teaching and learning approach. As it is an international project, the materials have been developed in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French languages.
Every case study contains facts and realizations that link common uses of society and educational issues with the engineers who contributed in some way to its creation and development. On the website, every case includes:
• the context of the well-known social, scientific, and technological fact
• an example that illustrates the context
• a list of topic suggestions for open discussion
• a video with a short explanation of the link between the well-known social fact or invention and the engineer which contributed to its development
• a list of external links to broaden information for interested readers
• a link to a self-assessment questionnaire
How can a teacher use the contents of every case? Teachers can propose open discussion sessions or writing reports on the topic. For instance, teachers can evaluate if the students have successfully conveyed the ideas comparing their perception before and after using the materials or watching the videos. It is the teacher who will decide when and how to use the available materials integrating them into his or her course map of the education program: as pre-work before class; in-class, as a way to gain the attention of the class or as a case study for discussion; or as a study resource after the class.
How can a student use the contents of every case? Students can use the materials not only to accomplish assignments or writing reports but using the examples, videos, and self-assessment questionnaires to evaluate their understanding.
During the session, an interactive activity will be proposed to attendants, consisting in the presentation of a well-known social fact, collection of answers to an online questionnaire, and group discussion of responses. The attendees will act as if they were students at a group discussion activity in a STEM course. The learning goal of the activity is the destruction of misconceptions amongst engineering, science and technology, and the understanding of engineering as social role.
Attendees to this session will find an open tool to boost engineering discovery within the frame of STEM education. They will learn that engineering is not an isolated activity of great and lone personalities, but a social activity framed in the cultural and economic context of each era. Besides, just as there have been engineers from diverse nationalities, languages and cultures, this reinforcement project of the "E" of STEM will target a wide variety of cultures and languages.
 C. Simarro and D. Couso, Engineering practices as a framework for STEM education: a proposal based on epistemic nuances. International Journal of STEM Education 8, 53 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40594-021-00310-2.
 J. Pleasants and J. K. Olson, What Is Engineering? Elaborating the Nature of Engineering for K-12 Education, Science Education 103 (1), 145–166 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.21483.
 M. Kuvac and I. Koc Enhancing preservice science teachers’ perceptions of engineer and engineering through STEM education: a focus on drawings as evidence, Research in Science & Technological Education, (2022). https://doi.org/10.1080/02635143.2022.2052038.
 R. Hammack, J. Utley, T. Ivey, K. High, Elementary Teachers’ Mental Images of Engineers at Work. Journal of Pre-College Engineering Education Research (J-PEER) 10 (2), 35–46 (2020). https://doi.org/10.7771/2157-9288.1255.
 B. M. Capobianco, H. A. Dieffes-Dux, I. Mena and J. Weller, What is an Engineer? Implications of Elementary School Student Conceptions for Engineering Education, Journal of Engineering Education, 100, 304-328, (2011). https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2168-9830.2011.tb00015.x.
 F. O. Karatas, A. Micklos and G. M. Bodner. Sixth-Grade Students’ Views of the Nature of Engineering and Images of Engineers. J Sci Educ Technol 20, 123–135 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-010-9239-2.