Document Type

Conference Proceeding


2001 Annual Conference

Publication Version

Published Version

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference

First Page


Last Page


Conference Title

2001 Annual Conference

Conference Date

June 24-27, 2001


Albuquerque, NM


Engineering faculty at Iowa State University have worked collaboratively with teacher education faculty since 1996 to offer an undergraduate course entitled Toying with Technology to elementary and secondary education majors1, 2. The development of this technology literacy course provided students with an appreciation for the technological innovations that surround them. Studies have shown that students form many of their overall career and educational attitudes as early as elementary school. Elementary (and even secondary) schoolteachers who have an appreciation for technology will likely convey that appreciation to their students. This will, in turn, broaden the horizons of these students regarding the opportunities they may have regarding careers in scientific and engineering disciplines. Engineering faculty believe the Toying with Technology course is a component of the long-term recruitment of K-12 students, particularly minorities and women, into technology-based fields3, 4, 5.

This course is designed to explain the principles behind many of the technological innovations in wide use today via a collection of hands-on laboratory experiences based upon simple systems constructed out of LEGOs and controlled by small computers. These laboratory experiences are designed to lead students, literally by their hands-on experimentation, through the use of technology in support of many everyday activities. The lab experiences are simple enough to isolate and illuminate the underlying basic principles and yet complex enough to represent real-world examples. Students typically design and construct simple models of real-world systems, including an elevator and its controller, a garage door and its opener, a computer-controlled car, and a house security system. A significant portion of this course is the many field experiences involving K-12 students being facilitated in mobile robotics exercises by the pre-service teachers. The literature in recent years shows numerous papers on mobile robotics1, 2, 6-8, many using LEGOs. There also are many references to engineering outreach efforts3-5, 8-12.

During the summer of 2000 a graduate course incorporating these mobile robotics and scanning electron microscope exercises was offered to in-service teachers and teacher education graduate students. Several of the in-service teachers who took this course are now partnered with the current undergraduate students to provide an on-going relationship among the practicing teacher, the pre-service teachers, the K-12 students, and the engineering faculty. In effect, the practicing teacher’s classroom becomes the laboratory for the Toying With Technology course.


This is a conference proceeding from Proceeding of ASEE Annual Conference (2001): 1. Posted with permission.

Copyright Owner

American Society for Engineering Education



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