Agencies | Governor
Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Education
State Board of Education
Licensure Regulations for School Personnel [8 VAC 20 ‑ 22]
Action Comprehensive Revision of the Licensure Regulations for School Personnel
Stage Proposed
Comment Period Ends 11/6/2015
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10/23/15  2:28 pm
Commenter: Dr. Thomas E. Pinelli, NASA (Retired)

Proposed Engineering Teaching Endorsement

I support the proposed engineering endorsement – qualifications, requirements, and certification – for high school teachers in Virginia and believe that the adoption and implementation of this endorsement (1) is an important step in the process of adding engineering to the high school curriculum; (2) will dramatically bolster STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education in the Commonwealth; and (3) will increase educational and career opportunities for all Virginia students and teachers, especially females and minorities.

Brief Bio

I grew up in Southside VA and now live in Yorktown, VA. I hold a PhD from Indiana University, Bloomington in Information Science with minors in information and technology policy. My research interests include the information-seeking behavior of engineers (as distinct from scientists), engineering education, workforce development, technology policy, and STEM education. I have authored over 300 publications on these and related topics and I have received numerous awards, recognitions, and commendations for my research and professional contributions. I am a Senior Fellow of the Society of Technical Communication, an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, a Senior Member of the American Society for Engineering Education, and I have served on a number of engineering education committees.

Relevant Work Experience

I recently retired after 40 years of federal service from the NASA Langley Research Center. In my last 10 years of service I held two important positions: (1) Deputy Project Manager for Education, NASA Modeling and Simulation Initiative and (2) NASA University Affairs Officer (UAO).

In Assignment 1, I managed the MODSIM K-16 Education and Training Demonstration Project, an effort that focused on developing modelling and simulation (MODSIM) as both content and a methodology for enhancing and enriching K-16 STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education and training with the goal of creating a 21st Century workforce.

In Assignment 2, I served as the UAO.  As the UAO, I represented and promoted NASA to high schools, community colleges, colleges, universities, consortia, and community-based (for profit and not-for-profit) STEM organizations.  My position required me to develop, manage and evaluate internships programs that prepare, recruit, and retain students in the STEM pipeline and facilitate high school, undergraduate, and graduate students interaction with NASA engineers and scientists. I also served on several engineering education working groups, committees, and panels.


Leadership in technological innovation is essential to U.S. economic and national security.  In an increasingly global, knowledge-based economy, technological innovation – the transformation of new knowledge into the design of products, processes, and services of value to society – is critical to competitiveness, long-term productivity growth, and improved quality of life.  The nation’s primacy in technological innovation, its national security, and its economic vitality depend on a wide array of factors, one of which is engineering education and practice.

Engineering is not applied science. Science is an introverted activity that is concerned with the natural world.  Scientists study problems that are usually generated internally by logical discrepancies or inconsistencies or by anomalous observations that cannot be accounted for within the present intellectual framework.

Engineering, on the other hand, is an extroverted activity that is concerned with the designed world. Engineers use the design process – identifying a problem, designing a solution, testing and improving the design – to produce workable solutions for our nation’s most pressing problems and to create the innovations that give us modern life with all its advances and conveniences.  Engineering yields solutions that are workable and effective; it seldom pursues the why.  Generally speaking, engineers produce knowledge and designs, products, and processes (artifacts); they make decisions based on incomplete data and approximate models.  A high-profile, recent case in point, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner: Building on existing and new (breakthrough) “game-changing” technology, the Dreamliner has “leap frogged” the competition and revolutionized the contemporary large commercial aircraft (LCA) industry to now become the most modern airplane in the world.  The creation of the 787 Dreamliner has given Boeing a competitive advantage over its competition. In designing and developing this aircraft, the engineers of Boeing used advanced manufacturing, computational methods, and systems integration to transform commercial air travel while offering the LCA industry a wide-body aircraft with exceptional environmental performance by significantly lowering operating costs, providing superior fuel efficiency, and weight reduction through the use of lightweight and environmentally friendly carbon composites.

Engineering vs Technology

Engineering and technology are intertwined terms in modern society, especially in popular culture. However, technology is not engineering although it is a process dominated by engineers, engineering technologist, technicians, and “craft” skills.  The word “engineering” is often used as a synonym for technology. Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably as the distinctions between the two are not always clear and because technology is often a consequence of engineering and science.  Engineering is often characterized as having four main branches -- chemical, civil, electrical, and mechanical -- each with multiple subcategories.

Technology is a human endeavor. Technology is additive. America’s standard of living and way of life depend upon technology.  Hence, an understanding of what technology is, how it works, how it is created, how it shapes and influences society (and vis-versa) becomes increasingly important. Through the years the definition of "technology" has changed. Collectively, technology can be seen as a collection of tools, techniques, skills, methods, and processes that, as an output, usually manifests itself as a process, product, system, service, or an entire industry. The word ‘technology’ can also refer to a collection of knowledge, techniques, and tools and can be combined with a discipline to create specific technologies – automotive, communications, construction, manufacturing, and transportation – that are representative of specific industries or clusters of industries. Engineering courses in a high school curriculum might include engineering fundamentals, engineering design, statics and dynamics, and fluid mechanics and high school technology (education) courses might include foundations of technology, technology and society, technological literacy, manufacturing systems, and power and transportation. In terms of STEM education, engineering and technology complement one another and one does not negate nor diminish the importance of the other.  However, one is not a substitute for the other. Engineering and technology are separate subjects each requiring separate knowledge and skill sets.  With the passage of the proposed engineering endorsement, Virginia moves from SteM to STEM education and the (instructional) integration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Our students, education as a whole, and the Commonwealth will be better for the change.

Engineering Teaching Endorsement

With the passage of proposed engineering endorsement

  1. College graduates with a bachelor’s degree from an ABET-accredited program will find it easier to enter the teaching profession.
  2. Students will now be guaranteed authentic and expanded course offerings and highly qualified, teachers who are also subject-matter (engineering) experts.
  3. Virginia’s work-force, economic development, and job creation efforts will be strengthened.

I strongly support the creation of the proposed engineering endorsement for high school teachers for these reasons.