Celebrate Engineering!
Looking back at 15 years of engineering at the Museum of Science


Ioannis Miaoulis

In 2018, the 15th anniversary of engineering at the Museum offered a time to celebrate the many advances that have become “business as usual” within the Museum’s ecosystem. This journey has transformed formal and informal education, both in the United States and around the world, and it has redefined the way we think about museums and their ability to engage and empower learners of all ages.

When Ioannis Miaoulis joined the Museum of Science as president and director in 2003, he envisioned introducing engineering in both museums and PreK – 12 classrooms as the key to 21st-century scientific and technological literacy and innovation. Shortly after his joining, the institution launched the National Center for Technological Literacy® (NCTL®), designed to integrate engineering into museums and schools through new content and curricula, and to bring together government, industry, and education leaders to foster STEM learning. The Museum then published Engineering is Elementary® (EiE®) in Massachusetts—the first-ever engineering curriculum for elementary school children. Today NCTL boasts a range of engineering curricula designed for PreK – 12 classrooms and out-of-school settings and engages in advocacy, programming, and exhibit development.

During his 16-year tenure, Miaoulis championed PreK – 12 engineering education to Congress, school superintendents, and CEOs. Advocacy for technological and engineering literacy (TEL) became the Museum’s mandate, transforming us into a leader in national and international STEM education and policy. Since then, we have influenced the writing of US engineering education bills, leveraged our work in Massachusetts to help other states develop engineering education frameworks, and worked with the STEM industry to elevate TEL in the public eye.

Exhibits and Programs

Star Wars®: Where Science Meets Imagination

The Museum has also focused on exhibits that promote technological and engineering literacy. Star Wars®: Where Science Meets Imagination, created in 2005 through a unique partnership with Lucasfilm, Ltd., compared the technologies of the fictional Star Wars universe with real-world counterparts; it traveled worldwide for ten years. The Science Behind Pixar, a wildly popular exhibit that revealed the complexities of computer science in animation, is now touring internationally. Design Challenges—emphasizing the engineering design process—was born in 2003. The Yawkey Gallery on the Charles River, which opened in 2016, capitalizes on the Museum’s unique river location by connecting two of our wings with the natural and engineered worlds.

These award-winning exhibits are supplemented by developments like the Omni film Dream Big: Engineering Our World and the study of bioengineering in the Hall of Human Life. Likewise, the NASA-funded Planetarium show From Dream to Discovery: Inside NASA has incorporated the technology of space travel into its storyline. Our live presentations on the Gordon Current Science & Technology Center Stage also include engineering concepts. In 2005, the Museum joined with other institutions to form the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISE Net), which shares nanoscale science and engineering with the public. The Museum’s many summer school courses, lectures, and forums have also incorporated cutting-edge engineering and technology topics.

Building a Generation of Problem Solvers


In 2003, engineering curriculum for elementary school children didn’t exist. But in 2004, the Museum’s newly launched NCTL® began to fill this void with its groundbreaking curriculum Engineering is Elementary®, which was piloted to eight teachers and 200 students in Massachusetts. Today, Engineering is Elementary is the nation’s largest elementary school engineering curriculum, having reached more than 165,000 educators and 15 million students in all 50 states, Washington, DC, and abroad. Tailored for grades 1 – 5, this curriculum engages young learners through real-world challenges that use the engineering design process to form a foundation for all STEM learning.

Since the Engineering is Elementary launch, the Museum has developed a range of curricula that “empower children to become lifelong STEM learners and passionate problem solvers,” says Christine Cunningham, EiE’s founding director. These curricula include hands-on classroom activities and span the entirety of Pre-K – 12 education. Through the Museum’s Educator Resource Center (ERC), teachers have access to more than 700 engineering resources and professional development opportunities; the ERC serves 2,000 teachers a year.

To date, the Museum’s engineering curricula:

  • Start early with Wee Engineer® (preschool) and EiE® for Kindergarten (kindergarten) to engage the youngest learners
  • Empower elementary school students with Engineering is Elementary
  • Encourage students’ passion outside the classroom with Engineering Adventures® (grades 3 – 5) and Engineering Everywhere (grades 6 – 8) for afterschool and camp programs.
  • Continue the excitement about STEM careers in middle school with Building Math and in high school with Engineering the Future: Science, Technology, and the Design Process.

NCTL Advocates for the “T” and the “E” in STEM

STEM Learning

Ideally positioned to bring government, industry, and education leaders together to foster STEM learning, the Museum’s National Center for Technological Literacy® advocates for engineering education, develops PreK – 12 curricula for diverse learners, and offers related teacher/professional development. The Museum’s STEM content has been used in 24 countries, and its K – 12 curricula have reached an estimated 165,000 teachers and 15 million students. NCTL-led educational initiatives have garnered more than $100 million in funding, including $55 million in support from the National Science Foundation.

Since its inception, NCTL has been instrumental in:

  • Creating curricula to support TEL in grades PreK – 12
  • Consulting with states across the nation to modify their standards and assessments to include engineering
  • Revising the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), known as the Nation’s Report Card, to include technological literacy
  • Developing a groundbreaking NAEP Technology and Engineering Literacy Assessment, which measures how well students can apply technology and engineering skills to real-world situations
  • Working on Capitol Hill to develop — and ultimately help pass (in 2015) — the Every Student Succeeds Act, a first-ever K – 12 engineering education bill
  • Advocating to educational, corporate, governmental, and international stakeholders about the importance of the “T” and the “E” in STEM education
  • Collaborating internationally to develop engineering and technology curricula and programs for educational institutions, museums, and science centers.


NCTL is established

NISE Net is established with $20 million National Science Foundation grant; Gateway Project is established to help school districts implement Massachusetts Science & Technology/Engineering Framework

Gordon Foundation gives $20 million to Museum for engineering initiatives

Ioannis Miaoulis, Museum president and director, testifies in US House Subcommitttee on Research & Science Education (K – 12 Engineering Education)

Engineering is Elementary reaches 1 millionth student

Next Generation Science Standards include engineering; European Union supports ENGINEER, a project based on EiE

Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination completes ten-year tour to over 3 million visitors

Planetarium produces From Dream to Discovery: Inside NASA; NCTL is awarded NSF Public Service Award; new national education law (ESSA) includes K – 12 engineering

The Science Behind Pixar starts national tour

MathWorks gifts $10 million to develop a permanent technology and engineering exhibit; Miaoulis is inducted into US News STEM Hall of Fame

Blueprint for Implementation

Christine Cunningham

Christine Cunningham is EiE®’s founding director. In 2003, she saw an opportunity to transform the way STEM subjects were being taught and oversaw the development of the Museum’s elementary engineering curriculum. In early 2018, she authored the book Engineering in Elementary STEM Education, which builds upon the tremendous work of the Museum’s curriculum team and compiles years of research, tips, and strategies that have been proven to engage all learners, in particular girls and other underrepresented populations in the STEM fields. First of its kind, Engineering in Elementary STEM Education shows how to implement an engineering curriculum for young people. It also shares how STEM education has evolved, how EiE and the Museum have shaped the educational landscape, and what more can be accomplished through a high-quality engineering curriculum.

Thank You

The Museum of Science gratefully acknowledges the vision and generosity of the following individuals, corporations, and foundations that have supported engineering across our exhibits, educational programs, curriculum initiatives, and advocacy efforts over the past 15 years.

  • AeroVironment, Inc.
  • Brenda and Stéphane Bancel
  • S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation/Stephen Bechtel Fund
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • Alexis Borisy and Lia Meisinger
  • Bose Corporation
  • The Boston Foundation
  • Nonnie and Rick Burnes
  • The Cargill Foundation
  • Cisco
  • Cognizant
  • Concord Communications, Inc.
  • Mark Currie and Lynne Ferrari
  • The Tarrant Cutler Family
  • Brit d’Arbeloff
  • Dell Inc.
  • Nancy E. Dempze and Daniel J. Bailey III
  • Deborah Dunsire and Michael Hall
  • Joanne and Paul Egerman
  • European Union
  • Gretchen S. Fish
  • Sandy and Dozier Gardner
  • GE Foundation & GE Employees
  • Google, Inc.
  • Roy and Myra Gordon
  • Sophia and Bernard M. Gordon
  • GreenFuel Technologies Corporation
  • Haley Family Foundation
  • Harvard Pilgrim Health Care
  • Daphne and George Hatsopoulos
  • The Charles Hayden Foundation
  • Ina and Lewis Heafitz
  • Julie and Bayard Henry
  • Hewlett-Packard Company
  • Highland Street Foundation
  • Gilbert H. Hood Family Fund
  • i2 Camp
  • Institute of Museum and Library Services
  • Intel
  • Ann and Ed Kania
  • Donald and Edna Kaplan
  • Susan C. Kaplan
  • Kathryn B. Kavadas
  • Wendy and Philip Kistler
  • Maria and Wes Kussmaul
  • Lakeside Foundation
  • LARS Foundation
  • George and Emmy Lewis
  • Liberty Mutual Insurance
  • Leo Liu, MD and Pendred Noyce, MD
  • Lockheed Martin Corporation
  • Alistair and Sharon Lowe
  • The Lowell Institute
  • Ivana Magovcevic-Liebisch, PhD, JD
  • Massachusetts Board of Higher Education
  • Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Massachusetts Technology Collaborative
  • MathWorks, Inc.
  • Therese and Kurt Melden
  • Mercury Computer Systems, Inc.
  • Ann Merrifield and Wayne Davis
  • Mr. and Mrs. Neal P. Miller
  • MIT Lincoln Laboratory
  • Jamie and Yiannis Monovoukas
  • Elizabeth Moore
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • National Grid
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • National Science Foundation
  • Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, Inc.
  • Oracle Corporation
  • Philips Healthcare
  • Raytheon
  • Gene and Abby Record
  • Daniel and Katherine Relihan
  • Elizabeth G. Riley and Daniel E. Smith Jr.
  • Mr. James Rosenberg
  • Rudy and Anne Ruggles
  • Sanofi Genzyme
  • Science Museum Exhibit Collaborative
  • SheGives
  • Jacquie and the late Ira Stepanian
  • William M. and Judith A. Steul
  • Fredi and Howard Stevenson
  • Joan and Herman Suit
  • Jane and Payson Swaffield
  • Susan and Michael Thonis
  • US Department of Defense
  • US Department of Education
  • US Department of Labor
  • US Small Business Administration
  • Uvas Foundation
  • Margaret and Jim Wade
  • Yawkey Foundations
  • Gwill E. York and Paul Maeder
  • Roxanne Eigenbrod Zak and Michael J. Zak
  • Xiaohua Zhang and Quan Zhou
  • Anonymous (2)