High School Engineering Coursework Comes Online

Even today with all of the attention that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education is receiving, it is still difficult to find a quality curriculum that introduces high school students to the wide world of engineering. Often, choices in technology education curricula are limited to mechanical and automotive engineering, leaving out important facets of engineering that are essential in a technology-driven 21st century.

A global competition in technological vision, expertise, and skills is driving innovation at an alarmingly swift rate. While America does not lead this technological explosion, we are developing numerous initiatives and programs so that we remain globally competitive. The U.S. government, private industry, and education are coming together to improve STEM education programs nationally. The National Network of Digital Schools is contributing to the national STEM education collaborative with the development of the Lincoln Interactive engineering curriculum.

The new Lincoln Interactive engineering curriculum encompasses 21st century skills and the expertise and knowledge of leading STEM institutions, including Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and California University of Pennsylvania. A primer course provides a foundational overview of engineering fields, practices, and processes. Additionally, it requires students to apply skills in engineering design. This course is followed up with a design and application course focusing on four major engineering fields. The online coursework requires students to critically explore their normal world and develop designs to improve current products. The courses present educational videos featuring science and engineering professionals who work at LANL, as well as a rich variety of digital enhancements and activities. Additional courses currently in development will round out a comprehensive engineering curriculum.

When approached by Lincoln Interactive, Dr. Glenn Hider and Dr. Laura Hummell, both Technology Education professors at California University of Pennsylvania, agreed to develop the coursework, recognizing that the online-delivered coursework fills a gap in delivering essential engineering-based curriculum to students nationwide. "When students walk into a university engineering program, they are often poorly-equipped for the rigor that will be required of them," said Dr. Hider. "Involving students in engineering and technology coursework at the high school level promises to help them walk in much better prepared to be successful in an engineering program."

Los Alamos National Laboratory, the premier scientific research institution in the United States, has in recent years seen fewer and fewer American students prepared for the high tech and high-end research work being conducted at the lab. LANL's educational initiatives include working with educational science and engineering programs, such as those developed and delivered by Lincoln Interactive, which foster student interest in science and engineering careers.

The Lincoln Interactive engineering curriculum is produced by Caroline Hardman, STEM Program Coordinator with the National Network of Digital Schools, developer of the Lincoln Interactive online curriculum. The engineering curriculum falls under an umbrella product line called Cutting Edge Science (CES). The CES line includes coursework in advanced biological and energy sciences as well as engineering. Working with LANL, CES also provides students the opportunity to discuss new research and technologies in live, monthly video chats with experts.