American Society of Civil Engineers

Preparing for the WATERS Network: Engaging Middle-School Science Students in Environmental Engineering

by Lindsay A. Rawot, (Pratt Engineering Undergraduate Fellow and GM Fellow, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Duke Univ. Pratt School of Engineering, Durham, NC. E-mail:, J. Jeffrey Peirce, Ph.D., (corresponding author), (Associate Professor, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Duke Univ. Pratt School of Engineering, Durham, NC E-mail:, and Barbara Kanoy, (Cooperating Teacher and Cochair, Middle School Science Dept., Durham Academy, Durham, NC. E-mail:

Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice, Vol. 137, No. 3, July 2011, pp. 135-140, (doi:

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Document type: Journal Paper
Abstract: An educational outreach program connecting middle-school students with the importance of water quality and the role of environmental engineers was designed, implemented, and assessed as part of the infrastructure preparation and future educational plan of the Water and Environmental Research Systems (WATERS) Network. The educational program included a set of laboratory protocols modified according to the time, space, safety, and teaching-level constraints of the middle-school classroom. Additionally, a CyberCollaboratory was specifically created to engage students with data interpretation, excite them about real-world engineering applications, and extend the learning from the individual to the entire classroom by connecting an entire classroom’s data and guiding them in drawing conclusions from a larger context. Through pretest and posttest assessments, it was shown that 50% of the students involved showed a marked improvement in scores and that the overall class average increased by 13%, illustrating that the outreach program as a whole effectively taught students about engineering and its relation to water quality, specifically pH and hardness. The program delineated here should serve as a model for future student interaction with the WATERS Network and should help the current planning committee for educational outreach make further strides forward in integrating the WATERS Network into classrooms nationwide.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Engineering education
Water quality
Environmental issues
Environmental engineering
Public information programs

Author Keywords:
Middle school