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Find out more about the background to our project. What is the research that has motivated us to work with 3-7-year-old children and engineering? What are the research questions that we plan to answer? The sections below give a brief overview and we'll publish more detailed descriptions and updates on our work as it progresses.

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Why Engineering?

Reasons of economics and equality

  • Engineering contributes 26% to UK GDP Annual shortfall of 59,000 engineers and technicians in the UK 

  • Lack of diversity in the workforce, e.g. only 13.6% are female 

  • Many children, parents and teachers have limited understanding of what engineers actually do

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Impact on child development

Engineering has been shown to:

  • Enhance social and emotional skills, via working together with peers, parents and/or teachers 

  • Develop gross and fine motor skills, through hands-on challenges

  • Support curiosity, problem-solving, resilience and creativity

  • Increase school-readiness, e.g. follow directions and processes

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Why 3–7 year olds?

Critical to start early

  • By age 7 children have ruled out careers as being "not for people like them" 

  • Very young children exhibit stereotypes which influence their behaviour and choices 

  • Lack of careers interventions, engineering activities and associated research at ages 3-7

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Learning links

How does engineering support learning?

  • Engineering activities lead to improved knowledge in science, especially early maths skills. 

  • Use of an engineering design process enables practice for following directions and processes 

  • Asking children to reflect on engineering choices develops self-reflection and ability to communicate ideas 

  • Increases awareness of engineering in everyday life

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Ideas for parents and carers

  • Provide "engineering" resources for play at home, e.g. blocks often promote play that has aspects of engineering like problem-solving, refining and improving designs etc

  • Talk about science and engineering at home - start from things you are already interested in and try to find science and engineering links

  • Use counter-stereotypical images and books

  • Acknowledge, and challenge, stereotypes when you see them in play or on the news, in books etc

  • Challenge your own stereotypes and views of science and engineering (how you see science impacts how your child views it)

  • Adopt a 'growth mindset': your science and engineering ability is not fixed. Anyone can be good at these topics

  • Learn more about engineering and the variety of career options available

Families have asked us about what they can do to tackle stereotypes and foster an interest in science and engineering. We will post ideas for activities and findings from our research as soon as we can. In the meantime guidance from previous studies suggest:

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What is the focus of the research?

The primary aim of our project is to deliver fun and engaging engineering activities to showcase the breadth and diversity of engineering. At the same time the research side will look at the how, what and why of successful engagement. The aim is to develop an improved understanding of how young children develop an engineering identity and make practical recommendations for design and implementation of engineering interventions aimed at 3-7-year-olds.

We will investigate things like:

  • How do 3-7-year-olds view engineers and engineering? Is there a difference based on factors like gender, ethnicity, socio-economic class etc?

  • What are the perceptions and attitudes of teachers, parents and carers towards engineering?

  • What kinds of activities and resources are most effective at challenging stereotypes and changing views of engineering?

  • How can teachers best support engineering activities, e.g. what kind of language, teaching style etc is most effective?

  • What are the best techniques for parents and carers to facilitate interest in engineering?

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