Novel Engineering

An integrated approach to teaching Engineering and Literacy

Inspired by kids and grounded in research, Novel Engineering is an innovative approach to integrate engineering and literacy in elementary and middle school.

Students use existing classroom literature – stories, novels, and expository texts – as the basis for engineering design challenges that help them identify problems, design realistic solutions, and engage in the Engineering Design Process while reinforcing their literacy skills.

What’s New in Novel Engineering?

Novel Engineering Challenges just completed it’s fall cycle using the books Poppy and Weslandia! View the winning entries¬†here.

Tufts TEEP (Teacher Engineering Education Program) will be offering a course in integrating engineering and literacy this winter. Click here to learn more!

Want to stay up to date on upcoming professional development workshops and online course options?


What is Novel Engineering?

Novel Engineering is an integrated approach to teaching engineering and literacy. As part of Novel Engineering, students develop projects based on texts they read in English Language Arts or other content classes, such as history. The characters become their clients and students pull from the text to scope problems and set constraints as they engage in engineering design.

Teachers play a pivotal role in supporting their students’ engagement by providing a supportive, responsive environment that will allow students to build on their ideas as they work on complex problems. Instead of prescribing a particular solution or process for students, we believe that teaching engineering involves listening to, understanding, and responding to student thinking. Design is about realizing the ideas of individuals and Novel Engineering gives students the space to explore their ideas through design projects.

Benefits of Novel Engineering

Works Within ELA Curriculum

The highly-adaptable approach works within an already existing language arts curriculum where teachers choose books that work best in their classrooms.

Enhances Reading Comprehension

Students relate to the characters as they work to create solutions for them, enhancing the comprehension of text as students try to find details to predict characters’ choices. Students support their ideas with evidence from the text.

Engages All Learners

The exciting and different way to practice literacy provides students who struggle with language arts have a new way to demonstrate comprehension.

Provides Integration of Different Disciplines

Using texts to find engineering problems and engineering to promote the text provides synergistic integration of different disciplines and meets common core and next generation science standards.

Introduces Realistic Engineering Problems

Looking for problems in the text as “engineers” introduces students to rich, realistic engineering problems that enable them to achieve higher-level engineering standards than expected at their grade levels.

Builds 21st Century Skills

Engaging in the Engineering Design Process allows students to practice important 21st century skills such as teamwork and communication.

What Novel Engineering looks like

  1. Read a book and identify problems – Through discussion and attentive reading, students collect problems that characters face.
  2. Scope problems and brainstorm solutions – Students consider the needs of the story’s character/client and the context/constraints imposed by the text as they brainstorm possible solutions.
  3. Design a solution – Students work in teams to plan and build a functional prototype that addresses the character’s needs and constraints.
  4. Get feedback – Students test their solutions as they build and get feedback from their teacher and/or peers.
  5. Improve designs – Students use information gathered during testing and presentations to improve and revise their designs.
  6. Share – Teams can either present their final solution or reflections on their process to the class, write a story that includes their solution, or make an advertisement for their solution.