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Alternatively, you might build a context to help them connect with an unfamiliar problem by using videos, speakers, or field trips.
This needs to be a significant challenge students care about.
It might be a problem in their own life or community.
We need to grow a savvy, ethical workforce to solve looming issues such as air pollution, fresh-water shortages, and crumbling infrastructure.
Criteria for Selecting Real-World Problems Designing real-world engineering challenges for K-12 students can be tough.
• The problem should align with grade-level standards for science and mathematics.
In a packed school day, neither teachers nor students have time for much “extra” curriculum content.However, each subject doesn’t need to be used to the same extent.Some solutions may rely more heavily on science and others on mathematics, but all must require students to use an engineering design process.Give them as much autonomy as possible to identify problems they want to solve, within the constraints dictated by the curriculum.You might start by asking students to be on the alert for problems in their home, school, or community.For example, students might notice erosion in the schoolyard, or determine that kids need a digital tool to manage their homework assignments. Just remember to direct students toward problems that are appropriate for their grade level and content knowledge. Simply typing “real-world problems” in a search engine brings up a host of possible sites that you can sift through for ideas.If students get stuck, ask them what needs to happen to make life better for the citizens in their area. But be forewarned: Everything labeled “real-world problem” is not necessarily a STEM real-world problem with an engineering approach.When my students and I draw a blank, these are some of the tactics I use: • Encourage students to come up with the problem.This approach typically generates the most enthusiasm and buy-in from students.Engineering solutions for a problem involving clean energy, such as wind turbines or solar cells, might be realistic.However, tackling a problem involving interplanetary space travel—not so much.