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Online text teaches engineering to high school students

November 04, 2008

Darryl Morrell has put course notes, assignments and even a short textbook online, but felt that this material was not having much impact outside of ASU. That is why he welcomed an opportunity during the summers of 2007 and 2008 to work with the CK-12 Foundation and several ASU faculty in engineering and education to write Engineering: an Introduction for High School.

In addition to being one of the first engineering textbooks written specifically for high school students, this book is an online resource that can be adapted, repurposed, and extended to help excite high school students about science, technology, engineering and math.

CK-12 is a non-profit foundation launched in 2007 to reduce the cost of textbooks for the K-12 market in the US and worldwide, using an open-source, collaborative, web-based infrastructure known as a Flexbook.

Morrell, an engineering professor at Arizona State University Polytechnic, wants students to appreciate the role engineers have played throughout history, to understand the skills and processes engineers bring to their work, and how their work shapes and is shaped by society.

“It is important for students to realize that fun technologies like video games, MP3 players or cell phones have all been developed using engineering practices and techniques to make the technology and infrastructure work,” said Morrell. “With the project, our hope is that students appreciate that engineering is everywhere and will be encouraged to consider it as a career.”

Chapters of the online textbook/flexbook so far include The Nature of Engineering, Engineering and Society, Engineering Design, Connecting Science and Mathematics to Engineering, and A Brief History of Engineering.

The engineering text can be used in at least two different ways in the classroom.

The first is in a high school engineering course. The book is best suited for a junior- or senior-level course, but could be adapted to freshman or sophomore students as well, according to Morrell. The book provides enough material for a semester-long course that would include an engineering design project.

The text also could be used in math or science courses to provide supplementary material, Morrell added. “For example, the engineering design chapter could be used to support a design project that would provide an engineering context for math or science topics,” he said. “The Flexbook structure would allow a teacher to select one or more chapters from the engineering book; these chapters could be used as supplementary material or could be added to a math or science text.”

As a Flexbook, the text and content can continually be customized, modified or updated to support specific standards and classroom needs.

To check out the Engineering textbook, contribute to it or see some of the other CK-12 textbooks, visit

Chris Lambrakis,
(480) 727-1173
Public Affairs at ASU Polytechnic campus