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Girls Outperform Boys On National Engineering, Technology Skills Tests

This second-ever assessment of students' technology and engineering abilities found that girls outscored boys in all six areas tested.

In a national assessment of engineering and technology skills, eighth-grade girls outperformed boys in all six areas tested — countering the long-held stereotype that boys have a more natural aptitude for these technical fields. The newly reported results of the 2018 Technology and Engineering Literacy (TEL) exam, which tests both content knowledge and ability to put that knowledge into practice, revealed that girls scored higher than boys in every category, even though fewer girls take technology and engineering classes in school than boys. "The girls have done extremely well in this assessment," says Peggy Carr, associate commissioner for assessment at the National Center for Education Statistics. "Girls are outperforming boys whether they take a class or not. And when girls take a course, they also score higher."

The TEL was launched in 2014, to be given every four years as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is also known as the "nation's report card." It was designed to determine how well middle school students could apply engineering and technology concepts to their day to day lives. During the assessment, the students are given a variety of real-world scenarios such as designing and building a safe bike path or developing an online exhibit about Chicago's water pollution crisis in the 1800s. They are encouraged to think through the problems and use the tools they have available to come up with a solution. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the TEL "is designed to address how well students have mastered the processes and tools they need to participate intelligently and thoughtfully in the world around them."

A sample of 15,400 eighth grade students in 600 public and private schools took the 2018 TEL, and girls outscored boys in every category, with particularly large gaps in "information and communications technology" and "communicating and collaborating." The overall gender gap between girls and boys' scores also increased compared to the first year the test was administered in 2014. The test further revealed that fewer girls take technology and engineering classes in school, with 61% of boys reporting having taken at least one class like coding or robotics and only 53% of girls having done so.

While the test results demonstrate that many girls clearly have an aptitude for such technical subjects, they are still not encouraged to pursue engineering and technology as often as boys and, as a result, girls may not give these subjects due consideration as possible career paths. "The message to [school] administrators is that we need to encourage girls to take more of these technology and engineering courses," asserts Carr. "If students take at least one of those courses, they do better."

The results on the TEL reinforce the value of efforts to close the gender gap in technology and engineering, both of which still skew heavily male in the adult workforce. Kirby Harder, an engineering teacher at Copley High School in Akron, Ohio, says he had to encourage girls — including Nina White, a senior and the current team captain for the school's Lady Engineers Plus Two team — to sign up for his class. "Girls are just as good at engineering as boys," he says. "They often take their time to think through a problem, whereas boys often rush through and make a mistake." This year, White and her team took first place at the SourceAmerica Design Challenge; she's now planning to major in civil engineering at the University of Akron. "I joined engineering in my junior year and I really had no idea what engineering was," she said in an interview with Akron.com. "This has taught [me] so many different aspects of engineering."

Books and Toys To Spark Girls' Interest In Engineering & Technology

Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering!

Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering!

Written by: Ruth Spiro
Illustrated by: Irene Chan
Recommended Age: 0 - 3

Accurate enough to satisfy an expert, yet simple enough for baby, this colorful book about a little girl and bird explores the basics of flight – from birds, to planes and rockets – and ties it all to baby’s world. Beautiful, visually stimulating illustrations complement age-appropriate language to encourage baby’s sense of wonder. Parents and caregivers may learn a thing or two, as well! For more volumes from this fun and inspiring series, visit our Baby Loves Science Collection.

The Most Magnificent Thing

The Most Magnificent Thing

Written by: Ashley Spires
Illustrated by: Ashley Spires
Recommended Age: 4 - 8

The little girl in this story has an idea in her head for the most MAGNIFICENT thing... so with the help of her puppy sidekick, she collects some bits and pieces and starts building. Except that the result isn't quite as magnificent as she wanted, so she tries again... and again... and again. Eventually, frustration overtakes her, and she not only smashes, pummels, and explodes, she also quits. It's not until she takes a walk with her dog and clears her head that she can see the potential in all her previous design and build something that she really does feel is magnificent. This fun picture book sends a great message to young readers about the importance of persistence.

Doll-E 1.0

Doll-E 1.0

Written by: Shanda McCloskey
Illustrated by: Shanda McCloskey
Recommended Age: 4 - 8

Young Charlotte is always tinkering, coding, and clicking — but one day her parents give her a most puzzling toy: a doll! After all, Charlotte wonders, what's she supposed to do with a "human-shaped pillow"? Then she discovers her doll has a battery-driven voice box and decides to upgrade it to Doll-E 1.0. Soon Charlotte discovers the fun to be had with her new friend and the value of a little balance between high-tech and pretend play. Filled with author-illustrator Shanda McCloskey's cheerful illustrations and witty narrative, this refreshing modern look at the joy of imaginative play also celebrates the joy of engineering!

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Written by: Andrea Beaty
Illustrated by: David Roberts
Recommended Age: 4 - 9

Quiet Rosie dreams of inventing gizmos and gadgets, so when she hears her Great-Aunt Rose (of Rosie the Riveter fame) sighing that she never fulfilled her dream to fly, Rosie decides to create a solution that will let Aunt Rose soar. Despite her hard work, though, the heli-o-cheese-copter hovers for just a moment before crashing to the ground. Although Rosie considers it a failure, Aunt Rose reassures her that it was actually a tremendous success — because you only truly fail if you quit. Fans of Rosie will also want to check out Rosie Revere's Big Project Book for Bold Engineers, as well as her first early chapter book appearance in Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters.

Hedy Lamarr's Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor
New!

Hedy Lamarr's Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor
New!

Written by: Laurie Wallmark
Illustrated by: Katy Wu
Recommended Age: 5 - 9

As a child growing up in Austria, Hedy Lamarr wanted to know how everything worked — she even took apart her toys! But she also loved acting out her favorite scenes from movies. As an adult, the world knew Hedy Lamarr as a glamorous movie star, but she had a secret: she was also an inventor. And in the middle of World War II, she created an invention for the U.S. Navy that would become the foundation for some of today's most important technologies, including WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS! Author / illustrator pair Laurie Wallmark and Katie Wu, creators of Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code, team up once again for this compelling introduction to a little-known scientific talent.

Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge
New!

Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge
New!

Written by: Rachel Dougherty
Illustrated by: Rachel Dougherty
Recommended Age: 5 - 9

As a girl, Emily Roebling was an eager learner — but girls didn't need to know math and science, and certainly not engineering. As an adult, her husband had an ambitious plan for a bridge that would "link Manhattan and Brooklyn," and when construction began, Roebling insisted on learning more about it. And when her husband fell ill, she stepped in, supervising every aspect of the project, and ensuring that the Brooklyn Bridge, one of New York's most iconic landmarks, was finished. This picture book biography celebrates the secret engineer who refused to give up on an architectural wonder.

Ellie, Engineer

Ellie, Engineer

Written by: Jackson Pearce
Recommended Age: 7 - 10

Ellie prides herself on her engineering skills, and loves inventing things in her backyard workshop. So when her best friend Kit's birthday approaches, she's determined to make something — and when she hears Kit's mom saying they're getting her a dog, she knows just what to build: a doghouse. But her plans get more and more elaborate, and soon she's got to enlist help from other kids in the neighborhood — kids who don't always get along. Can she create the doghouse of Kit's dreams and still keep it a secret? This exuberant story includes fun backmatter, including a how-toguide to tools, that will delight would-be engineers.

Girls Think of Everything

Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women

Girls Think of Everything

Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women

Written by: Catherine Thimmesh
Illustrated by: Melissa Sweet
Recommended Age: 8 and up

Every day, we use items and products invented by women — and yet few people could name one woman inventor. This book changes that! Author Catherine Thimmesh surveys a wide variety of inventions, from Stephanie Kwolek's Kevlar to Patsy O. Sherman's Scotchgard, that have changed the world, exploring how these women came up with their ideas and how they made them a reality. Engaging and inspiring, and updated in 2018 with even more stories of inventive women, this book celebrates female ingenuity and the women who refused to give up until their inventions became part of our everyday lives.

Women Of Steel And Stone

22 Inspirational Engineers, Architects, and Landscape Designers

Women Of Steel And Stone

22 Inspirational Engineers, Architects, and Landscape Designers

Written by: Anna M. Lewis
Recommended Age: 12 and up

Inspire her dreams of creation with this book featuring biographies of 22 groundbreaking architects, engineers, and landscape designers! Each capsule biography describes that woman's strengths and passions as a child, as well as the challenges they faced as they established themselves in their careers. Intriguing sidebars explore related topics, as well as the landmark events that affected each figure, including the industrial revolution, the women's suffrage movement, and the civil rights movement. This entry in the Women of Action series will fascinate budding engineers!

Robot Engineer Kit and Storybook

Robot Engineer Kit and Storybook

Manufacturer: Thames & Kosmos
Recommended Age: 3 - 6

Learn the basics of robotic engineering with this kit from Thames and Kosmos' Kids First line! Kids follow along with a book as they build non-motorized models of the ten robots in the story, learning about concepts like gear trains and simple machines. Large pieces make it easy for preschoolers to build all by themselves — and to experiment on their own. For two more sets for budding engineers from the Kids First line, check out the Amusement Park Engineer set and the Automobile Engineer pack.

Tree House Engineering and Design Set

Tree House Engineering and Design Set

Manufacturer: Learning Resources
Recommended Age: 5 - 10

Build the tree house of your dreams with this engineering set from Learning Resources! A selection of included activity cards get kids solving engineering challenges with the 52 pieces, using everything from simple planks to a hinged bridge and a rope and bucket. Kids will learn to build railings, platforms, and more, and then they can let their imagination run wild! It's the perfect choice for those who know engineering can take you anywhere — even up a tree.

K'Nex 100 Model Building Set

K'Nex 100 Model Building Set

Manufacturer: K'NEX
Recommended Age: 7 - 12

Imagine what you could build with this giant set of K'NEX! This 100 model building set comes with 863 plastic rods and connectors which easily snap together to build machines, models, buildings, and more — pretty well anything you can imagine. The included illustrated booklet provides 100 building ideas, as well as some useful building tips. The whole thing comes in a portable suitcase box for storage. Plus, parents will love that K'NEX are made in the USA using responsible manufacturing techniques!

littleBits Space Rover Inventor Kit

littleBits Space Rover Inventor Kit

Manufacturer: littleBits
Recommended Age: 8 and up

With this fun kit from littleBits, kids can build their own interactive space rover! littleBits are easy-to-use electronic building blocks that snap together with magnets and allow anyone to build, invent, and prototype. The space rover kit comes with 34 components that kids can use to complete 30 space-themed projects inspired by the challenges facing real NASA astronauts and engineers, including a space rock collector and an alien life detector. It even includes stories of real-life space pioneers to inspire young explorers and engineers. Once they've tried the included projects, kids can experiment endlessly with their own inventions!

Snap Circuits Bric: Structures

Snap Circuits Bric: Structures

Manufacturer: Elenco Electronics Inc
Recommended Age: 8 and up

Engineer in a new way with this combination of Snap Circuits modular electronic components and compatible Brics! Kids can wire up their brick builds with Snap Circuits lights, sounds, moving parts, and 3-D circuits to invent almost anything and make it go! This set includes 20 Snap Circuits component parts, 75 bric-2-snap adapters, and 140 fully compatible building bricks full-color, plus an easy-to-read project manual that guides young builders through 20 different building projects.

LEGO Mindstorms EV3

LEGO Mindstorms EV3

Manufacturer: LEGO
Recommended Age: 10 and up

Combining the versatility of the LEGO building system with the most advanced technology we've ever developed, the new LEGO Mindstorms EV3 set allows you to create and command robots that walk, talk, think and do anything you can imagine. Follow the building instructions to create TRACK3R, R3PTAR, SPIK3R, EV3RSTORM and GRIPP3R, or make your own creation, and bring them to life with an easy, intuitive and icon-based programming interface. What will you create?

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