About Novel Engineering

At Tufts University’s CEEO

Novel Engineering

Tufts University’s Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO) has dedicated the last twenty years to supporting classroom teachers to cover STEM topics in their curriculum.  They developed Novel Engineering (NE) as an innovative approach to integrate engineering and literacy in elementary and middle school classrooms.  Novel Engineering is first and foremost inspired by kids, but it is also solidly grounded in extensive scholarly research.

Teachers as Facilitators

Teachers play a pivotal role in NE challenges by providing a supportive, responsive environment where students can build on their ideas as they work on complex problems.  We believe that teaching engineering involves listening to, understanding, and responding to student thinking.  Novel Engineering gives students the space to explore their ideas through the design projects they work on in the classroom.

Engaging Students

In a Novel Engineering unit, students will engage in engineering design through the regular books they are already reading in class — stories with characters who face problems.  Students take on the role of engineer — a problem-solver and designer — who is working for a client — the character(s) in the book.  Students pull information from the text to scope problems and set constraints as they engage in engineering design to help their client by designing and building a solution that will fit their client’s needs.


Any Book & Any Story!

Any classroom literature — stories, novels, and expository texts — may be used as basis for engineering design challenges where students can:

  • Identify engineering problems
  • Impose constraints by using details from the text
  • Design functional, realistic solutions for characters
  • Engage in the engineering design process while reinforcing their literacy skills
  • Use evidence from the text to support their design decisions

Integrating Reading and Engineering

In an integrated unit, reading the text can support the engineering and doing engineering can help students deepen their understanding of the text. Moving between text and engineering helps support learning in both areas.

Students begin by reading a book and discussing problems encountered by the characters. At some point, either during reading or upon completion of the book, the students design something that they can build in the classroom that will solve one of the problems that a character in the book encounters.

Benefits and More

  • NE is a highly adaptable approach that works within an already existing language arts curriculum
  • Teachers choose books that work best in their classrooms
  • It is an exciting and different way to practice literacy and students who struggle with language arts have a new way to demonstrate comprehension
  • Enhances the comprehension of the text as students try to find details to predict characters’ choices and students relate more to the characters as they work to create solutions for them
  • Introduces students to rich, realistic engineering problems
  • Provides synergistic integration of different disciplines
  • Emphasizes problem solving, teamwork skills, and other twenty-first-century skills
  • Meets Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards

Novel Engineering in Action: