Integration of engineering components into the AP Physics I curriculum
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This work examines the integration of engineering topics and design in an Advanced Placement (AP) Physics I course as taught in a large urban district in Texas, herein referred to as the school district, and examines whether engineering integrated into physics instruction accomplishes the same educational objectives as dedicated engineering courses such as the Engineer Your World designed by UTeach Engineering Program at The University of Texas at Austin. (Innovative Curriculum for High School Engineering Design, 2013). Observations were conducted in physics classrooms to view the enactment of district prescribed performance tasks. These performance tasks are open-ended, engineering-type challenges involving real-world scenarios in which students generate products. In addition, two AP Physics I instructors from the district were interviewed, one of whom is affiliated with UTeach engineering. A third instructor outside of the district, who teaches physics and Engineer Your World was also interviewed. The findings reported in this work indicate that AP Physics I courses have the potential to include steps of engineering design in traditional physics project-based instruction as well as the opportunity for instructors to utilize engineering-based examples during instruction. However, AP Physics I with its many curriculum requirements and accelerated pace cannot provide an experience comparable to that of an authentic engineering course. A more effective instructional model would be to teach the two courses concurrently, rather than substituting engineering modules in physics courses for an engineering course. To better integrate physics and engineering instruction, professional development geared towards physics teachers interested in incorporating engineering components into their lessons and projects is needed.