Engineering

Designing a Middle Grades Spatial Skills Curriculum

This project will create a portable training system that can be easily deployed in middle grades (5th-7th grade) as a prototype for increasing students' spatial reasoning skills. The project will study gender differences in spatial reasoning and examine how learning experiences can be designed to develop spatial skills using Minecraft as a platform.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720801
Funding Period: 
Sat, 07/01/2017 to Tue, 06/30/2020
Full Description: 

The ability to make spatial judgements and visualize has been shown to be a strong indicator of students' future success in STEM-related courses. The project is innovative because it uses a widely available gaming environment, Minecraft, to examine spatial reasoning. Finding learning experiences which support students' spatial reasoning in an authentic and engaging way is a challenge in the field. This project will create a portable training system that can be easily deployed in middle grades (5th-7th grade) as a prototype for increasing students' spatial reasoning skills. The project will study gender differences in spatial reasoning and examine how learning experiences can be designed to develop spatial skills using Minecraft as a platform. The resources will incorporate hands-on learning and engage students in building virtual structures using spatial reasoning. The curriculum materials are being designed to be useful in other middle grades contexts.

The study is a design and development study that will design four training modules intended to improve spatial reasoning in the following areas: rotation, mental slicing, 2D to 3D transformation and perspective taking. The research questions are: (1) Does a Minecraft-based intervention that targets specific spatial reasoning tasks improve middle grade learners' spatial ability? (2) Does spatial skills growth differ by gender? The experimental design will compare the influence of the virtual spatial learning environment alone vs. the use of design challenges designed specifically for the spatial skills. The data collected will include assessments of spatial reasoning and feedback from teachers' who use the materials. The spatial skills measures will be administered as a pre-test, post-test, and six-month follow-up assessment to measure long term effects.

Perceptual and Implementation Strategies for Knowledge Acquisition of Digital Tactile Graphics for Blind and Visually Impaired Students (Collaborative Research: Gorlewicz)

This project lays the foundation and framework for enabling digital, multimodal tactile graphics on touchscreens for individuals with visual impairments (VI). Given the low-cost, portability, and wide availability of touchscreens, this work promotes the use of vibrations and sounds on these readily available platforms for addressing the graphical access challenge for individuals with VI.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1644538
Funding Period: 
Sun, 01/15/2017 to Tue, 12/31/2019
Full Description: 

Students with disabilities often have fewer opportunities for experiential learning, an important component of quality STEM education. With continued shifts toward the use of digital media to supplement instruction in STEM classrooms, much of the content remains inaccessible, particular for students with visual impairments. The promise of technology and use of tactile graphics is an effective, emerging innovation for providing more complete access to important information and materials. Tactile graphics are images that use raised surfaces to convey non-textual information such as maps, paintings, graphs and diagrams. Touchscreen-based smart devices allow visual information to be digitally and dynamically represented via tactile, auditory, visual, and kinesthetic feedback. Tactile graphic technology embedded in touchscreen devices can be leveraged to make STEM content more accessible to blind and visually impaired students.

This project will develop a learner-centered, perceptually-motivated framework addressing the requirements for students with blindness and visual impairments to access graphical content in STEM. Using TouchSense technology, the investigators will create instructional materials using tactile graphics and test them in a pilot classroom of both sighted and BVI students. The investigators will work with approximately 150 students with visual impairments to understand the kind of feedback that is most appropriate for specific content in algebra (coordinate plane), cell biology, and geography. Qualitative research methods will be used to analyze the video-based data set.

Perceptual and Implementation Strategies for Knowledge Acquisition of Digital Tactile Graphics for Blind and Visually Impaired Students (Collaborative Research: Stefik)

This project lays the foundation and framework for enabling digital, multimodal tactile graphics on touchscreens for individuals with visual impairments (VI). Given the low-cost, portability, and wide availability of touchscreens, this work promotes the use of vibrations and sounds on these readily available platforms for addressing the graphical access challenge for individuals with VI.

Award Number: 
1644491
Funding Period: 
Sun, 01/15/2017 to Tue, 12/31/2019
Full Description: 

Students with disabilities often have fewer opportunities for experiential learning, an important component of quality STEM education. With continued shifts toward the use of digital media to supplement instruction in STEM classrooms, much of the content remains inaccessible, particular for students with visual impairments. The promise of technology and use of tactile graphics is an effective, emerging innovation for providing more complete access to important information and materials. Tactile graphics are images that use raised surfaces to convey non-textual information such as maps, paintings, graphs and diagrams. Touchscreen-based smart devices allow visual information to be digitally and dynamically represented via tactile, auditory, visual, and kinesthetic feedback. Tactile graphic technology embedded in touchscreen devices can be leveraged to make STEM content more accessible to blind and visually impaired students.

This project will develop a learner-centered, perceptually-motivated framework addressing the requirements for students with blindness and visual impairments to access graphical content in STEM. Using TouchSense technology, the investigators will create instructional materials using tactile graphics and test them in a pilot classroom of both sighted and BVI students. The investigators will work with approximately 150 students with visual impairments to understand the kind of feedback that is most appropriate for specific content in algebra (coordinate plane), cell biology, and geography. Qualitative research methods will be used to analyze the video-based data set.

Perceptual and Implementation Strategies for Knowledge Acquisition of Digital Tactile Graphics for Blind and Visually Impaired Students (Collaborative Research: Smith)

This project lays the foundation and framework for enabling digital, multimodal tactile graphics on touchscreens for individuals with visual impairments (VI). Given the low-cost, portability, and wide availability of touchscreens, this work promotes the use of vibrations and sounds on these readily available platforms for addressing the graphical access challenge for individuals with VI.

Award Number: 
1644476
Funding Period: 
Sun, 01/15/2017 to Tue, 12/31/2019
Full Description: 

Students with disabilities often have fewer opportunities for experiential learning, an important component of quality STEM education. With continued shifts toward the use of digital media to supplement instruction in STEM classrooms, much of the content remains inaccessible, particular for students with visual impairments. The promise of technology and use of tactile graphics is an effective, emerging innovation for providing more complete access to important information and materials. Tactile graphics are images that use raised surfaces to convey non-textual information such as maps, paintings, graphs and diagrams. Touchscreen-based smart devices allow visual information to be digitally and dynamically represented via tactile, auditory, visual, and kinesthetic feedback. Tactile graphic technology embedded in touchscreen devices can be leveraged to make STEM content more accessible to blind and visually impaired students.

This project will develop a learner-centered, perceptually-motivated framework addressing the requirements for students with blindness and visual impairments to access graphical content in STEM. Using TouchSense technology, the investigators will create instructional materials using tactile graphics and test them in a pilot classroom of both sighted and BVI students. The investigators will work with approximately 150 students with visual impairments to understand the kind of feedback that is most appropriate for specific content in algebra (coordinate plane), cell biology, and geography. Qualitative research methods will be used to analyze the video-based data set.

Perceptual and Implementation Strategies for Knowledge Acquisition of Digital Tactile Graphics for Blind and Visually Impaired Students (Collaborative Research: Giudice)

This project lays the foundation and framework for enabling digital, multimodal tactile graphics on touchscreens for individuals with visual impairments (VI). Given the low-cost, portability, and wide availability of touchscreens, this work promotes the use of vibrations and sounds on these readily available platforms for addressing the graphical access challenge for individuals with VI.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1644471
Funding Period: 
Sun, 01/15/2017 to Tue, 12/31/2019
Full Description: 

Students with disabilities often have fewer opportunities for experiential learning, an important component of quality STEM education. With continued shifts toward the use of digital media to supplement instruction in STEM classrooms, much of the content remains inaccessible, particular for students with visual impairments. The promise of technology and use of tactile graphics is an effective, emerging innovation for providing more complete access to important information and materials. Tactile graphics are images that use raised surfaces to convey non-textual information such as maps, paintings, graphs and diagrams. Touchscreen-based smart devices allow visual information to be digitally and dynamically represented via tactile, auditory, visual, and kinesthetic feedback. Tactile graphic technology embedded in touchscreen devices can be leveraged to make STEM content more accessible to blind and visually impaired students.

This project will develop a learner-centered, perceptually-motivated framework addressing the requirements for students with blindness and visual impairments to access graphical content in STEM. Using TouchSense technology, the investigators will create instructional materials using tactile graphics and test them in a pilot classroom of both sighted and BVI students. The investigators will work with approximately 150 students with visual impairments to understand the kind of feedback that is most appropriate for specific content in algebra (coordinate plane), cell biology, and geography. Qualitative research methods will be used to analyze the video-based data set.

Readiness through Integrative Science and Engineering: Refining and Testing a Co-constructed Curriculum Approach with Head Start Partners

Building upon prior research on Head Start curriculum, this phase of Readiness through Integrative Science and Engineering (RISE) will be expanded to include classroom coaches and community experts to enable implementation and assessment of RISE in a larger sample of classrooms. The goal is to improve school readiness for culturally and linguistically diverse, urban-residing children from low-income families, and the focus on science, technology, and engineering will address a gap in early STEM education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621161
Funding Period: 
Sat, 10/01/2016 to Wed, 09/30/2020
Full Description: 

Readiness through Integrative Science and Engineering (RISE) is a late stage design and development project that will build upon the results of an earlier NSF-funded design and development study in which a co-construction process for curriculum development was designed by a team of education researchers with a small group of Head Start educators and parent leaders. In this phase, the design team will be expanded to include Classroom Coaches and Community Experts to enable implementation and assessment of the RISE model in a larger sample of Head Start classrooms. In this current phase, an iterative design process will further develop the science, technology, and engineering curricular materials as well continue to refine supports for teachers to access families' funds of knowledge related to science, technology, and engineering in order to build on children's prior knowledge as home-school connections. The ultimate goal of the project is to improve school readiness for culturally and linguistically diverse, urban-residing children from low-income families who tend to be underrepresented in curriculum development studies even though they are most at-risk for later school adjustment difficulties. The focus on science, technology, and engineering will address a gap in early STEM education.

The proposed group-randomized design, consisting of 90 teachers/classrooms (45 RISE/45 Control), will allow for assessment of the impact of a 2-year RISE intervention compared with a no-intervention control group. Year 1 will consist of recruitment, induction, and training of Classroom Coaches and Community Experts in the full RISE model, as well as preparation of integrative curricular materials and resources. In Year 2, participating teachers will implement the RISE curriculum approach supported by Classroom Coaches and Community Experts; data on teacher practice, classroom quality, and implementation fidelity will be collected, and these formative assessments will inform redesign and any refinements for Year 3. During Year 2, project-specific measures of learning for science, technology, and engineering concepts and skills will also be tested and refined. In Year 3, pre-post data on teachers (as in Year 2) as well as on 10 randomly selected children in each classroom (N = 900) will be collected. When child outcomes are assessed, multilevel modeling will be used to account for nesting of children in classrooms. In addition, several moderators will be examined in final summative analyses (e.g., teacher education, part or full-day classroom, parent demographics, implementation fidelity). At the end of this project, all materials will be finalized and the RISE co-construction approach will be ready for scale-up and replication studies in other communities.

STEM Videohall: Connecting Communities and Disseminating Cutting Edge Work through Video and Discourse

This project supports the expansion of an interactive, online STEM Videohall where hundreds of NSF-funded researchers share their work through brief video narratives and interactive discussion.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1642187
Funding Period: 
Sat, 10/01/2016 to Mon, 09/30/2019
Full Description: 

Video has become a key tool for scientific communication because it increases the outreach and impact of projects, furthers scientific research within and across fields of study, and offers an accessible medium to engage the public in the understanding of science. This project supports the expansion of an interactive, online STEM Videohall where hundreds of NSF-funded researchers share their work through brief video narratives and interactive discussion. While the Videohall is accessible year-round, periodic annual Showcase events are used to drive visitors to the site where they can engage with one another, the project investigators and trained facilitators. The Videohall is a multiplier of NSF's investments in individual projects because it allows STEM education researchers to become aware of, and learn from, related work that is funded across NSF programs and directorates, and other federal agencies. In 3-minute video narratives, investigators share ideas, resources, data, evidence of impact, strategies and challenges. The Videohall platform supports open access and is designed to foster communication in ways that scale beyond traditional formats such as academic conferences. Moreover, because the online STEM Videohall is open to the public, it allows STEM investigators to share their work with multiple stakeholder communities including K-12 educators and school leaders, informal educators and community organizations, the STEM industry, education policy makers and families. Finally, because each video narrative is accompanied by a facilitated online discussion thread, investigators have a unique and valuable mechanism for receiving feedback from these various stakeholder communities. The STEM Videohall project is funded by the Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12), which seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

This project brings together seven NSF-funded resource centers who work with their respective communities to encourage Principal Investigators to share video narratives of their work through annual NSF STEM Showcase events. Each annual Showcase event presents videos created by 150-230 projects; many of the projects are affiliated with one of the seven resource centers, but others are from projects across NSF directorates and beyond. During a one-week period, Principal Investigators, their project staff, as well as the public at large, are invited to engage in interactive discourse, providing queries, comments, and feedback. Participants also vote for favorite presentations through "Presenters' Choice," "Public Choice," and "Facilitators' Choice," processes. This participant voting system serves to increase engagement and enhances outreach of the event through social media. After the one-week Showcase event concludes, all of the videos along with the related discourse remain available to the public online, who continue to access the Showcase throughout the year. Based on prior pilot work, it is estimated that over the course of a year, over 30,000 visitors, from over 150 countries, will engage with each annual Showcase. Videos from annual showcase events will be shared, reused, and repurposed to create new products with new constituencies. The project includes technical development efforts to iteratively improve its interactive platform, outreach efforts before each annual Showcase event, facilitation of the week-long event, and intensive dissemination efforts. A research component examines the extent of participation on various constituencies, the benefit of participation to projects, and the success of the events in terms of dissemination nationally and internationally.

INFEWS/T4: The INFEWS-ER: a Virtual Resource Center Enabling Graduate Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems

This project will provide a virtual environment for completing the Food, Energy, and Water (FEW) graduate student experience. The proposed work facilitates a transition from interdisciplinary to transdisciplinary training of existing faculty and current graduate students through a virtual resource center to help develop systematic processes for interdisciplinary thinking about large societal problems, especially those at the nexus of food, energy, and water.

Award Number: 
1639340
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

This project will provide a virtual environment for completing the Food, Energy, and Water (FEW) graduate student experience, thereby facilitating the generation of human capital who can address grand challenges at the nexus of food, energy, and water. The INFEWS-ER will provide educational resources (ER) targeting innovations at the nexus of FEW by combining the fundamental sciences of food, energy, and water with the skills and knowledge of interdisciplinary problem solving and the latest computational modeling and analysis tools and data. These individuals will be capable of analyzing scenarios at the scale of nations, continents, and the globe. The INFEWS-ER will offer certificate programs where FEW Graduate Scholars can demonstrate their capabilities in interdisciplinary thinking, Big Data, and computational modeling and analysis, thereby receiving a credential demonstrating their level of achievement. Further, The INFEWS-ER will offer a faculty fellowship program to incentivize a network of academics that will provide a scaffolded learning environment for graduates, effectively creating a hub for INFEWS research, education, and training.

The proposed work facilitates a transition from interdisciplinary to transdisciplinary training of existing faculty and current graduate students (who will become future faculty, practitioners, and policy makers) through a virtual resource center that will be accessible beyond the project team and project timeframe. Students will develop systematic processes for interdisciplinary thinking. They will be in the best possible position to target large societal problems, especially those at the nexus of food, energy, and water. New, interdisciplinary solutions will emerge, solutions that are sensitive to a wider array of constraints and ideals. Those solutions will reflect the best possible integration of technological, socio-economic, and socio-political constructs. Project impacts include educational and workforce development of the next generation of academics, multi-institution collaboration, and enhanced infrastructure for transdisciplinary research and education. The INFEWS-ER also has the potential to influence the way interdisciplinary research and education is implemented in the future through the archival dissemination of not only learning modules, but also the evaluations and lessons learned from the implementation of the center.

Supporting English Learners in STEM Subjects

This project will conduct a study to identify instructional practices and professional development approaches for teachers and the policies needed to support ELLs' accomplishments in science and math. The study will synthesize research relevant to improving ELLs' STEM learning, offer insight into how to support both English language development and science and math learning, and provide a framework for future research to help identify the most relevant and pressing questions for the field.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1636544
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2016 to Thu, 02/28/2019
Full Description: 

The expectation that all students, including English language learners (ELLs), achieve high academic standards has become even more evident and complex to date as a result of several key factors. First, as the school-aged population continues to grow more racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse, ELLs can now be found in virtually every school in the nation. Second, the science and mathematics education landscape has changed significantly resulting from the new visions in these fields, and the challenges posed by the new academic standards for all students. Third, the need to integrate new knowledge and perspectives from the language arts with knowledge from science and mathematics learning, instruction, and assessment has surfaced as a critical component of the potential strategies to be employed in addressing ELLs' current science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education situation from pre-K-12 grades. The key challenges today include both enabling educators to better support this student subpopulation, as well as increasing the number and quality of research activities focused on how best to support ELLs' success in these subjects. In response to this challenge, the Board on Science Education (BOSE) of the National Academies of Sciences will conduct a consensus study focused on identifying instructional practices and professional development approaches for teachers, as well as the policies that are needed to support ELLs' accomplishments in science and mathematics education. The study will synthesize a wide range of research literatures relevant to improving ELLs' STEM learning, and provide a comprehensive understanding of how best to simultaneously support English language development and deep learning in the context of new and more challenging standards in science and mathematics. The study will also provide a framework for future research that can help to identify the most relevant and pressing questions for the field, as well as increase the number and quality of proposed research activities focused on ELLs in STEM.

To conduct the consensus study, BOSE will convene a multidisciplinary committee of experts who will synthesize the most relevant research on related subjects. The committee will include professionals in the fields of science and mathematics education, curriculum development, learning and instruction, linguistics, and assessment to address key sets of research questions: (1) Based on research-informed and field-tested models, strategies, and approaches, what are promising approaches to support ELLs (including ELLs with disabilities) in learning STEM? Given the diversity within the ELLs' population, what has worked, for whom, and under what conditions? What can be learned from these models and what additional research is needed to understand what makes them effective? What commonly used approaches may be less effective?; (2) What is the role of teachers in supporting the success of ELLs in STEM? What is known about the biases teachers may bring to their classrooms with ELLs and how these can be effectively addressed? What kinds of curriculum, professional development experiences, and assessment are needed in order for STEM teachers to improve their support for ELLs in STEM?; (3) How can assessments in STEM (both formative and summative) be designed to reflect the new content standards and to be appropriate for ELLs? What assessment accommodations might need to be considered?; (4) How do policies and practices at the national, state, and local level constrain or facilitate efforts to better support ELLs in STEM (including policies related to identification of students)? What kinds of changes in policy and practice are needed?; and (5) What are the gaps in the current research base and what are the key directions for research, both short-term and long-term? The committee will work over a 30-month period to synthesize relevant research literature and prepare a final consensus report, including results, conclusions, and recommendations. The study will address an issue of national importance and will inform future research on challenges directly related to ELLs, diversity, and equity in STEM education. This issue is particularly relevant to programs such as Discovery Research K-12 that supports efforts that reflect the needs of the increasingly diverse population, and Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers, which supports strategies for recruiting and selecting participants from identified groups currently underrepresented in STEM professions, careers, and education pathways. The report will target a broad audience of stakeholders, including teachers, school district administrators, researchers, congressional staff, and federal agencies that fund educational research and set policies related to ELLs.

Developing a Model of STEM-Focused Elementary Schools (eSTEM)

This project will study five elementary STEM schools from across the U.S. that are inclusive of students from underrepresented groups in order to determine what defines these schools and will use an iterative case study replication design to study the design and implementation of five exemplary eSTEM schools with the goal of developing a logic model that highlights the commonalities in core components and target outcomes across the schools, despite the different school contexts.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621005
Funding Period: 
Mon, 08/15/2016 to Wed, 07/31/2019
Full Description: 

In the United States (U.S.) certain groups are persistently underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and careers, especially Blacks, Hispanics, and low-income students who disproportionately fall out of the high-achieving group in K-12 education. Policymakers argue that future STEM workforce needs will only be met if there is broader diversity participating in STEM education and careers. Recent reports have suggested that the nation would benefit from more STEM-focused schools, including at the elementary school level, to inspire interest and prepare students for future STEM endeavors. However, there is currently little information on the number and quality of elementary STEM (eSTEM) schools and the extent to which underrepresented groups have access to them. This project will study five elementary STEM schools from across the U.S. that are inclusive of students from underrepresented groups in order to determine what defines these schools. The project team, which includes investigators from SRI International and George Mason University, initially identified twenty candidate critical components that define inclusive STEM-focused elementary schools and will refine and further clarify the critical components through the research study. The resulting research products could support the development of future eSTEM schools and research on their effectiveness.

The Discovery Research K-12 (DRK-12) program seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models, and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. This Exploratory Learning Strand project will use an iterative case study replication design to study the design and implementation of five exemplary eSTEM schools with the goal of developing a logic model that highlights the commonalities in core components and target outcomes across the schools, despite the different school contexts. A framework of twenty design components, taken from research on inclusive STEM high schools and research on successful elementary schools, will inform the data collection, analysis, and logic model development. Schools as critical cases will be selected through a nomination process by experts, followed by screening and categorization according to key design components. School documents and public database information, a school survey, and telephone interviews with school administrators will inform screening and selection of candidate schools. Researchers will then conduct multi-day, on-site visitations to each selected school, collecting data from classroom observations, interviews with students, focus groups with teachers and administrators, and discussions with critical members of the school community. The project is also gathering data on school-level student outcome indicators. Using axial and open coding, the analysis aims to develop rich descriptions that showcase characteristics of the schools to iteratively determine a theory of action that illustrates interconnections among context, design, implementation, and outcomes. Research findings will be communicated through a logic model and blueprint, school case study reports, and conference proceedings and publications that will be provided on a project website, providing an immediate and ongoing resource for education leaders, researchers and policymakers to learn about research on these schools and particular models. Findings will also be disseminated by more traditional means, such as papers in peer-reviewed journals and conference presentations, and webinars.

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