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Socially engaged engineering provides for student learning of the design, analysis, and practices of engineering as well as the ways that engineering is situated in sociocultural contexts. This paper provides a conceptual framework regarding socially engaged engineering for K-8 educators, researchers, and curriculum designers. The framework identifies ways to support youth learning of engineering and considerations of technical, social, environmental, and ethical dimensions of engineering. As engineering enters K-8 educational settings, it is important to introduce the discipline in equity-oriented ways. We draw from the field of engineering for social justice to build this framework for examining engineering at the macro-, meso-, and microscales. Situating engineering in sociocultural contexts can be motivating to learners and provide perspectives on the nature of engineering. Our framework was concurrently designed with Youth Engineering Solutions (YES; https://YouthEngineeringSolutions.org) curricular units. To test the applicability of our principles, we applied them to K-8 YES curricula for school and out-of-school environments. Through the coevolution of principles and curricular materials, we developed age-appropriate learning objectives for three levels—lower elementary, upper elementary, and middle school. This paper shares the principles and progression, showing worked examples from curricula to demonstrate how the principles translate into curricular resources. We discuss constraints to the implementation of socially engaged engineering curricula, including those imposed in educational settings and the ideological assumptions about science, engineering, and STEM disciplines.



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