the Technology Interface / Fall98

An Approach to Introduce Engineering Technology to High School and Junior High School Students


Charlie P. Edmonson
Department of Engineering Technology
The University of Dayton


Many high school and junior high school groups come to universities for programs that introduce them to the various academic majors. These students normally are guided in-groups through all the Engineering Technology Programs for presentations. Students are attracted to Engineering Technology because of the hands-on nature of the profession so it follows that a one-hour lecture presentation may not the best way to introduce students to Engineering Technology. A presentation that may be more effective is one that includes hands-on activities demonstrating the particular major. This paper outlines a hands-on presentation that has been used to introduce students to Engineering Technology.



The University of Dayton, like most other universities, has various programs designed to attract potential students and inform them about the university and its academic programs. Examples are University Open House, Engineering Open House, Career Days, Women-in-Engineering Program, and others. Some programs are presented to groups of 20-25 high school and junior high school students in sessions that typically last 45 minutes to an hour. Usually, high school counselors, teachers, and/or parents accompany the students.

Student evaluations indicate that they do not like to listen to hour-long lectures about academic programs. They prefer hands-on presentations that get them involved and demonstrate something about the program. This paper presents an approach that has been given to numerous and varied groups of students with good feedback. Although the paper deals with Industrial Engineering Technology, a similar approach could be used for any Engineering Technology discipline.

Presentation Outline

Some of the questions of prospective students are "What is the difference between engineering and engineering technology? What is industrial engineering technology? What type of courses will I take? Will I be able to find a good job and have good career potential?" These questions are answered as part of the presentation. The following is an outline of the presentation.

What is Engineering?

The presentation is started by asking the students a series of open-ended questions, for example: What is engineering? What do engineers do? What are different types of engineers? If there were no engineers, what would the world have to do without? This discussion generally creates a good awareness of the importance of engineering.

What is Engineering Technology?

Next, the students are asked if anyone can explain the difference between engineering and engineering technology. Most students have never heard of Engineering Technology or if they have, they think it means an engineering technician. Figure 1 is used to explain the spectrum of engineering technology and engineering job functions in industry [1] [2].

Fig. # 1


What is Industrial Engineering Technology?

Most of these students do not understand Industrial Engineering or Industrial Engineering Technology. Unfortunately, the name, Industrial Engineering Technology, unlike most other majors, (e.g., Chemical, Electrical, Mechanical, Manufacturing, etc.) is not really descriptive of the profession. A very simple explanation is given to them: Industrial Engineering Technologists improve productivity, reduce costs, and increase quality of products for companies.

Next, a volunteer is obtained from the students. The volunteer is given a stopwatch and clipboard. The students are asked how many of the students participate in track and what the stopwatch is used for in track. I explain the use of the watch and talk about how Frederick Taylor used a similar watch to set time standards and improve the efficiency of workers in industrial areas such as factories and steel mills. An explanation is given of time standards, what they are used for, and why they are important.

The students are then asked how many of them can look at someone and tell if they are working at a normal pace or not. Usually most students say that they cannot. Most students agree, however, that they can tell if the individuals working on the interstate highway are working at a normal pace or not. The group is told that one benchmark used to determine a normal pace is to deal out a deck of 52 cards in four hands in 30 seconds [3]. Another student volunteer is asked to deal out a deck of 52 cards while the first volunteer uses the stopwatch to time the person dealing out the cards. The group is then polled to find out how many students thought the cards were dealt out at a normal pace, slower than normal, or faster than normal. The groupís responses are compared with the time from the stopwatch. A discussion then ensues of why we need to determine if the person we are studying is working at a normal pace or not.

Assembly Line Simulation Exercise

After the first two students sit down, two other students are given stopwatches with clipboards. Two additional students are obtained to participate in a simulated assembly line exercise. The students are asked how many have toured an assembly plant. About 40-50% of students has toured a plant and can accurately describe the concept of an assembly line. An explanation of Facility Layout Planning is initiated at this point. The students are then told that the two student volunteers are going to simulate assembly line workers. The simulation exercise involves inserting wooden pegs into a pegboard with 30 holes. [4] [5]

The students with stopwatches are asked to time the students assembling the pegboards. Those students who are not participating are asked to watch the students as they assemble the pegboards to see how they could do it differently to speed up the process of getting the pegs into the boards. Studentsí recommendations for improvement typically include:

Establish a pattern for inserting the pegs instead of inserting the pegs at random.

Use some type of fixture for holding the pegs instead of holding the pegs with their hand.

Use two hands instead of one to assemble the pegs two at a time.

Automate the process.

Let the assembly line workers sit down instead of stooping over the table.

Let them work together.

The students assembling the pegboards are asked to assemble them a second time but this time to use the suggestions of the students to speed up the process. The time to assemble the pegboards the second time using the studentís suggestions is compared with the time to assemble the boards the first time. Typically, there is a 25-35% reduction in the times. This significant reduction leads to a discussion of what if they could reduce the time of a real assembly line worker by 25-35% and how much money that would save the company.

The students are then asked how could the peg and pegboard be redesigned to speed up the process. With a little coaxing, they usually suggest making the pegs pointed and enlarging the holes in the pegboard. Of course, pointed pegs are already prepared and the other side of the pegboard has enlarged holes. The exercise is then performed a third time with the pointed pegs and enlarged holes and an additional reduction in the amount of time to assemble the pegboards is achieved. The fact that no process is ever perfect and continuous improvement techniques are then discussed.

The studentsí recommendations for improving the productivity of the assembly line workers along with other things the students bring up are used as springboards to discussions of the various Industrial Engineering Technology courses offered. Some examples are:

Presentation Wrap-up

The presentation is concluded with a few overheads showing the results of a recent survey of graduates, their starting salaries, satisfaction with the IET program, their employerís satisfaction, and their career mobility.


Students learn and retain more if they are actively engaged in the learning. Hands-on demonstrations are an effective means of introducing students, counselors, and parents to the engineering profession. The exercises must be fun but have the potential to demonstrate something about the academic program.



  1. Mott, Robert L., "Twenty-Five Years of Success with the Baccalaureate Degree in Engineering Technology", Journal of Engineering Technology, Fall 1992, The American Society of Engineering Education
  2. Cheshier, Stephen R., Studying Engineering Technology, Los Angeles: Discovery Press, 1998
  3. Niebel, Benjamin W., Motion and Time Study, Boston: Irwin, 1993
  4. Konz, Stephen, Work Design, Columbus: Grid, Inc., 1979
  5. Youde, L. "A Study of the Training Time for Two Repetitive Operations", Masters Thesis, State University of Iowa, 1947