Engineering in STEAM Education
Engineering makes use of specialized knowledge from domains like science, technology, and mathematics in solving problems that start from specific needs or desires of individuals or societal groups. For example, when there is a need to build a bridge over a river, engineers exploit their science knowledge (e.g., what kinds of occasional, transient forces might the bridge need to withstand? How should the bridge be designed to survive possible earthquakes or hurricanes?), their mathematics knowledge (e.g., define and solve mathematical equations to estimate the sum of forces exerted on the bridge, develop mathematical models to test bridge resistance to possible variables), their technology knowledge (e.g., use of modelling software during the design phase to develop models while studying the dynamics behind the bridge mechanism or use of technology equipment like sensors to control the function of bridge), as well as their understanding of the engineering design process (e.g., given the need that a bridge might need to carry different types of traffic, e.g., railway trains, cars, and/or pedestrians, what are the possible design candidates to fulfil each of these requirements? What type of safety measures should be taken care of?).
In the context of STEAM education, learners are expected to engage in processes and tasks similar to those engineers cope with. They should be given opportunities to ask questions to define the engineering problem, design several candidate solutions, determine criteria for a solution to be considered as successful, and identify constraints. Following similar procedures to those of scientists, they should perform investigations to collect data that would help them in specifying design criteria that would help them at a later stage to test their designs. In doing so, they should identify relevant variables, decide how to measure them, collect and analyse data. While performing their investigations, learners might use models or/and simulations to analyse the proposed solutions in a virtual manner so as to identify possible flaws, and thus to recognize the strengths and limitations of their designs. Such an approach provides students a place to practice the application of their understanding of how science, technology and engineering are interconnected, and at the same time they appreciate engineering both as a discipline and as a possible career path.
More on Engineering in STEAM Education
STEAM Activity Template
This activity template concerns the STEAM approach (more emphasis on Engineering). Engineering makes use of specialized knowledge from domains like science, technology, and mathematics in solving problems that start from specific needs or desires of individuals or societal groups. For example, when there is a need to build a bridge over a river, engineers exploit their science knowledge (e.g., what kinds of occasional, transient forces might the bridge need to withstand? How should the bridge be designed to survive possible earthquakes or hurricanes?), their mathematics knowledge (e.g., define and solve mathematical equations to estimate the sum of forces exerted on the bridge, develop mathematical models to test bridge resistance to possible variables), their technology knowledge (e.g., use of modelling software during the design phase to develop models while studying the dynamics behind the bridge mechanism or use of technology equipment like sensors to control the function of bridge), as well as their understanding of the engineering design process (e.g., given the need that a bridge might need to carry different types of traffic, e.g., railway trains, cars, and/or pedestrians, what are the possible design candidates to fulfil each of these requirements? What type of safety measures should be taken care of?). They should be given opportunities to ask questions to define the engineering problem, design several candidate solutions, determine criteria for a solution to be considered as successful, and identify constraints. In the context of STEAM education, learners are expected to engage in processes and tasks similar to those engineers cope with. They should be given opportunities to ask questions to define the engineering problem, design several candidate solutions, determine criteria for a solution to be considered as successful, and identify constraints. In the context of the Polar Star project, we suggest the Engineering Design Process (1) adjusted to STEAM education.
(1) Adapted from Massachusetts DOE, Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework. 2006, Massachusetts.
How to Use the Activity Template?
The template is divided in two parts. In the first part you can provide basic information about the activity, as well as relations with the other disciplines of STEAM which you can utilize during the implementation. In the second part the actual activity is described which is developed and presented based on the steps of the Engineering Design Process and the overall STEAM approach of the project (see STEAM orientation section). A brief description of each step is provided to facilitate the design of the activity for that step by describing the process in which you and your students will be engaged in, as well as the related tools to be used.
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POLAR STAR aims to bring together stateoftheart learning pedagogies and combine them with exciting activities that focus on contemporary science, thus helping teachers to introduce STEAM successfully in their class. At the same time the project will focus on the development of students’ key skills and competences as well as deepening their knowledge of fundamental science principles, increasing their appreciation of science and technology and their role in todays’ societies. POLAR STAR aims to offer an open and innovative training framework to teachers of primary and secondary education which will focus on: