Integrated Design Engineering Activity Series (IDEAS)

lead image

Engineering in the Middle School Classroom!

IDEAS is the result of a project funded by The Engineering Foundation and organized by two of the worlds major engineering societies, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

Our goal when soliciting project activities was to identify low-cost, "hands-on" engineering projects for use in middle schools math, science and technology classes. The announcement attracted over 60 entries from teachers, engineers, and concerned educational and professional groups. A panel of middle school teachers and engineers helped to plan the project and evaluated the entries. The resulting 'IDEAS' projects have been adapted from those entries.

Key Features

  • Each project concept has three levels of activity – exploratory, intermediate, and advanced. Goals have been set for each level, allowing teachers and student teams to work in stages, from basic investigation through actual construction.

  • Each activity level has desired outcomes or performance criteria to mark progress toward the achievement of learning objectives. Each project comes with an evaluation ‘Rubric’ to help teachers visualize progress toward the attainment of goals, and a ‘Reflection Sheet’ to gather student feedback at each stage in a project.

  • A “Just for Teachers” page looks at the underlying math, science, or engineering principles, the problem-solving process, materials and methods of construction, and collateral resources.

  • Each IDEAS project has a Curriculum/ Standards/Connections page, relating the activity to curriculum development standards in the United States.


"IDEAS" is not an isolated effort. ASME sponsors middle school teacher workshops at its major conferences and on a regional basis. These events have produced numerous ideas for classroom projects that integrate middle school math and science content with engineering topics.

In 1998 ASME published "Engineers Solve Problems," a collection of seven hands-on experimental problems developed in cooperation with the Salt Lake City school system, with the support of the National Science Foundation.

ASME has partnerships with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, both excellent vehicles for reaching students in middle school and in the early years of high school. ASME members assist scouts in their work toward the Engineering Merit Badge, and ASME has taken the lead in updating the engineering merit badge requirements. Similarly, ASME has revised the Girl Scout "Science in Action" badge, and is helping to create a new engineering-related project for senior scouts called "Build A Better Future."

ASME continues to help students when they reach the high-school level. One example is ASME support for JETS (the Junior Engineering Technical Society) and its national, team-oriented competitions and activities. ASME member sections around the country stand ready to assist teachers and students, and ASME offers a variety of publications, videos, and a CD-ROM on mechanical engineering careers