Engineering design activities offer the promise of enhanced learning and teaching in pre-college science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) settings. The wide variation and lack of coherence in research and practice concerning pre-college engineering design challenges necessitates an investigation of the literature. The overarching research question guiding this search and review of literature was, ‘‘How are engineering design challenges conceptualized in pre-college environments?’’ A search and review coupled with iterative thematic analysis was employed to understand and conceptualize the current body of literature on pre-college engineering design challenges. It is anticipated that this review will provide a general picture of the salient features surrounding engineering design challenges, including: authenticity to the learner and to engineering practices, open-ended problems, modeling, optimization to continuously improve, and the promotion of engineering habits of mind such as balancing trade-offs and satisficing. It is also expected that the results will contribute toward ongoing discussions of the role of design challenges in STEM educational settings, future research directions, and implications for practice.



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