Engineering for All (EfA) was an NSF DR K?12 project that created two six-week middle school Technology and Engineering (T&E) curriculum units driven by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenges for Engineering. The units were pilot tested, reviewed by an advisory board, externally evaluated, revised, and verified for feasibility of implementation by teachers and students across the United States.  


Lead developers of the Next Generation Science Standards and the Standards for Technological Literacy served as EfA Co-Principal Investigators (Co-PIs), so curriculum units align well with these standards.

The EfA Project's Theoretical Foundation. EfA's theoretical foundation is based on constructionism, a theory developed by Seymour Papert that holds that children learn best when they actively design and construct.

Informed Design Pedagogy. EfA emphasizes informed design pedagogy, where students do just-in-time tasks that build STEM knowledge and skill before they begin designing. This methodology has been developed and validated through six prior large-scale NSF-funded projects conducted by the Co-PIs. To provide a foundation for informed design, students engage in a series of knowledge and skill builders (KSBs), tasks which enable them to reach more informed solutions, as opposed to trial-and-error design where conceptual closure is often not attained. KSBs teach STEM concepts and skills; and then, student engage in culminating grand design challenges (GDCs) which promote knowledge synthesis and entail hands-on modeling of design solutions.

Instructional Uniqueness. Key features of EfA include portraying engineering as a potential social good and as a route to sustainability and social equity; revisiting five unifying engineering themes (design, systems thinking, modeling, resources, and human values) in different contexts; enhancing engineering thinking; and actively engaging all students, not just those predisposed to engineering careers, in authentic, integrated STEM learning. The intent of EfA is to address important STEM ideas and practices, open students' eyes to the roles engineers play in solving significant global and community-based problems, and instill in students the confidence that, with continued STEM study, they can make a difference in the world.

EfA Curriculum. The curriculum units invite middle school students to develop working, prototypical design solutions to authentic societal challenges. This is done in a laboratory setting using tools, materials, and computer-based simulations. Vertical Farming: Fresh Food for Cities focuses on the development of sustainable food sources through the design of hydroponic vertical farming systems. Water: The World in Crisis focuses on the development of multi-level water filtration systems using locally available materials in countries or communities with contaminated water sources (Bangladesh served as a case study).

Research. In addition to curriculum development, EfA conducted a research program involving participating teachers and national experts in assessment and engineering design pedagogy. Like engineers and designers, teachers using design tasks must have content knowledge; but teachers also need pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) that is contextualized within a content area. Design Teaching Standards (DTS) were developed to describe this elusive design pedagogical content knowledge (dPCK) and to define what teachers need to know and be able to do to support students' learning with design-based curriculum. The DTS were developed and validated through surveys of experts in design, T&E, and cognitive science. The DTS and accompanying rubrics were organized around three dimensions: design practices, engineering themes, and classroom instructional practices.  


The primary audience for EfA was T&E teachers and students, since the emphasis on STEM education substantiates the need for the nation's 30,000 T&E teachers to play an expanded role in advancing the T and E in STEM for all students. The Project focused on broadening participation of minorities, females, and students who may not necessarily be college bound as virtually all middle schools in the U.S. have T&E (or TechEd) programs.  We were assisted by 22 teachers and 755 students from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds and geographic locations nationwide. Participants included teachers from high-needs districts with students from low-income and ethnic and racial groups that are underrepresented in STEM, engineering education, and the technological workforce.

Publications and Presentations. Two book chapters and seven peer-reviewed journal articles were written by EfA leaders (and lead teachers, who are now published authors). Twenty-two national conference presentations and a video ( disseminated EfA results to the broader STEM education community. Numerous EfA teachers reported making presentations to groups of peers and local school boards.

Curriculum Availability. EfA curriculum is hosted on ITEEA's online learning management system EbD-BUZZ. For further information, contact ITEEA@ITEEA.ORG.

Last Modified: 11/28/2018
Modified by: Michael Hacker