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About The National Center for Technological Literacy® (NCTL)

What do you think about when you hear the word, "engineering?" Do you think of men in lab coats huddling over a microchip? Pocket protectors and slide rules?

The truth is, engineering is really about solving problems. About creating “technologies.” And when we say “technologies” we don't just mean computerized gadgets and space-aged polymers. The word "technology" really refers to anything that helps to make up the human-made world around us.

For example:

  • Bread is a technology — an engineered method of converting raw grains to more portable, readily edible foods.
    Bricks are technology — an engineered repeatable building solution.
  • And even glass is a technology — an engineered form of silicon dioxide that is both transparent and versatile.
  • We take the human-made world around us for granted and in the process, we've lost touch with how these technologies work. Many of us may know the recipe for bread, but how many can explain how glass is made, or where bricks come from? Most of us aren't taught the engineering skills and concepts used to create technologies.

Our K-12 education system, with its focus on English language arts, math, and the natural sciences, has essentially stayed the same for over two centuries. Yet the rest of the world has changed — altered by humankind's technological innovations.

In large part, education has not been designed to foster knowledge of this human-made world, putting society in a vulnerable situation — surrounded by technology, yet at a disadvantage when it comes to our understanding of it.

While K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education has received attention, it has focused more on math and science than technology and engineering.

That's why the NCTL inspires and fosters the next generation of engineers and technology leaders by promoting technology and engineering understanding.

To plant the seeds of excitement about science and math, our society must provide an environment where engineering is celebrated and flourishes.

The NCTL will play a critical role in turning the tide and raising the understanding of engineering by introducing engineering and technology education into the K-12 curriculum and into exhibits and programs of science museums and other informal educational venues nationwide.

These initiatives include:

  • Efforts to add engineering to K-12 core curriculum throughout the United States.
  • Promotion, support, and guidance for educators of this transformation across the country.
  • Increasing interest in, and understanding of, technology and engineering for the Museum of Science's core audiences as well of those of other museums, nationwide.

  • National leadership to raise awareness and increase understanding of engineering everywhere.
  • As a result, our nation will be more competitive and the world will be a better place.

Underlining the relevance of the NCTL's mission, a September 2009 report by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the National Research Council (NRC), Engineering in K 12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects concludes that K-12 engineering education "may improve student learning and achievement in science and mathematics, increase awareness of engineering and the work of engineers, boost youth interest in pursuing engineering as a career, and increase the technological literacy of all students. The teaching of STEM subjects in U.S. schools must be improved in order to retain U.S. competitiveness in the global economy and to develop a workforce with the knowledge and skills to address technical and technological issues."