Aikaterini (Katerina) bagiati
After graduating with a Diploma in Electrical and Computers Engineering and a Masters degree in Advanced Digital Communication Systems from Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece, in 2008 I became one of the first graduate students to join the pioneer School of Engineering Education at Purdue University.
During my work at Purdue I have been working with Dr. Demetra Evangelou, a recent PECASE awardee for her work on early engineering, who is also one of Dr. Lilian Katz’s graduate students, a pioneer in the field of early project work. Through my studies at Purdue, and in my work with an advisor with a strong background in early childhood development and education, I have focused my research on identifying developmental engineering, early engineering thinking, and the optimum time and way to expose children in STEM concepts with an emphasis on engineering. During my years as a doctoral student at Purdue, I expanded my work towards two opposite directions. I decided to research and teach engineering for prekindergarten students, which I found absolutely inspiring, and also work towards the teacher-training end. Although my thesis focusing on Pre-Kindergarten engineering appeared to raise many questions and worries in the beginning, end results completely supported our attempt to investigate engineering at it’s “infancy”.
In 2011 I obtained my PhD in Engineering Education from Purdue University. In my dissertation entitled “Early engineering: A developmentally appropriate curriculum for young children” I constructed and evaluated an early engineering curriculum. My study was carried out in a preschool classroom of 3-5 year olds. I used both the Creative Curriculum and the Project Approach frameworks to construct, carry out, and evaluate a developmentally appropriate curriculum derived from engineering content and intended to expose young children to the engineering field. This work along with a number of other studies carried out by Dr. Evangelou’s group are situated within the current P-12 Engineering Pedagogy discourse
As a software engineer and a software engineering instructor, I have repeatedly experienced on my own, and identified through my student’s experiences, challenges in the development and familiarization with the skills necessary to the profession, often because the prerequisite skills had not been developed at the appropriate school level. I have also observed how students’ misconceptions about the true nature of the engineering profession and the myth of “difficulty” surrounding it, keeps young people away.
In the U.S., as well as in many industrialized countries, preschool signifies the beginning of formal education. It is also arguably the place and time that equal opportunities towards a successful future begin. Identifying the appropriate time and way to work towards the development of a variety of skills has the potential to enhance individual development and create opportunity for meaningful professional employment. Such a well-prepared citizenry in turn could improve the collective development of future societies with everyone starting with well laid plans in early education.
I hope that P2E Curriculum will add to the early education curriculum and teacher education planning as well.