Engineering

Developing and Testing the Internship-inator, a Virtual Internship in STEM Authorware System

The Internship-inator is an authorware system for developing and testing virtual internships in multiple STEM disciplines. In a virtual internship, students are presented with a complex, real-world STEM problem for which there is no optimal solution. Students work in project teams to read and analyze research reports, design and perform experiments using virtual tools, respond to the requirements of stakeholders and clients, write reports and present and justify their proposed solutions. 

Award Number: 
1418288
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

Ensuring that students have the opportunities to experience STEM as it is conducted by scientists, mathematicians and engineers is a complex task within the current school context. This project will expand access for middle and high school students to virtual internships, by enabling STEM content developers to design and customize virtual internships. The Internship-inator is an authorware system for developing and testing virtual internships in multiple STEM disciplines. In a virtual internship, students are presented with a complex, real-world STEM problem for which there is no optimal solution. Students work in project teams to read and analyze research reports, design and perform experiments using virtual tools, respond to the requirements of stakeholders and clients, write reports and present and justify their proposed solutions. The researchers in this project will work with a core development network to develop and refine the authorware, constructing up to a hundred new virtual internships and a user group of more than 70 STEM content developers. The researchers will iteratively analyze the performance of the authorware, focusing on optimizing the utility and the feasibility of the system to support virtual internship development. They will also examine the ways in which the virtual internships are implemented in the classroom to determine the quality of the STEM internship design and influence on student learning.

The Intership-inator builds on over ten years of NSF support for the development of Syntern, a platform for deploying virtual internships that has been used in middle schools, high schools, informal science programs, and undergraduate education. In the current project, the researchers will recruit two waves of STEM content developers to expand their current core development network. A design research perspective will be used to examine the ways in which the developers interact with the components of the authorware and to document the influence of the virtual internships on student learning. The researchers will use a quantitative ethnographic approach to integrate qualitative data from surveys and interviews with the developers with their quantitative interactions with the authorware and with student use and products from pilot and field tests of the virtual internships. Data-mining and learning analytics will be used in combination with hierarchical linear modeling, regression techniques and propensity score matching to structure the quasi-experimental research design. The authorware and the multiple virtual internships will provide researchers, developers, and teachers a rich learning environment in which to explore and support students' learning of important college and career readiness content and disciplinary practices. The findings of the use of the authorware will inform STEM education about the important design characteristics for authorware that supports the work of STEM content and curriculum developers.

Teaching STEM with Robotics: Design, Development, and Testing of a Research-based Professional Development Program for Teachers

Using design-based research, with teachers as design partners, the project will create and refine project-based, hands-on robotics curricula such that science and math content inherent in robotics and related engineering design practices are learned. To provide teachers with effective models to capitalize on robotics for elucidating science and math concepts, a design-based Professional Development program will be built using principles of technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge (TPACK).

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1417769
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

Offering meaningful and motivating engineering contexts, such as robotics, within science and math courses constitutes a compelling strategy to address the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards for Math while enhancing science and math learning for all students. Using design-based research, with teachers as design partners, the project will create and refine project-based, hands-on curricula such that science and math content inherent in robotics and related engineering design practices are learned. To provide teachers with effective models to capitalize on robotics for elucidating science and math concepts, a design-based Professional Development program will be built using principles of technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge (TPACK). To ensure that teachers are well prepared, research-based practices and features of effective Professional Development will be adopted. Experts in robotics, engineering, education, curriculum design, and assessment--with experience in K-12 education, training, and outreach--have formed an interdisciplinary team to make robotics central to and sustainable in middle school science and math classrooms.

The research questions addressed in this project are qualitative in nature as appropriate for design research questions. The methodologies include teacher needs assessment, teachers' perceptions of robotics, pre and post testing, classroom observations, and surveys. Examples of the research questions are:

What characteristics of robotics promote effective learning of middle school science and math?

What elements of Professional Development engender teachers' TPACK of robotics and link it with classroom science and math?

What are student prerequisites to effectively use robotics in science and math learning?

What are the gains in students' STEM engagement, interest, persistence, and career awareness?

The robotics curriculum will include physical science used in robot performance expectations and motion stability. Additionally the curriculum will include the engineering design process consisting of problem definition, solution development, and design improvement. Robotics provides opportunities to support science and engineering practices of the Next Generation Science Standards such as developing and using models, planning and conducting investigations, designing solutions, and analyzing and interpreting data. The project will be aimed at middle school students and will provide substantial teacher professional development to implement the new curriculum modules. The partner schools have student bodies drawn from a diverse student population in New York City.

DIMEs: Immersing Teachers and Students in Virtual Engineering Internships

This project will provide curricular and pedagogical support by developing and evaluating teacher-ready curricular Digital Internship Modules for Engineering (DIMEs). DIMES will be designed to support middle school science teachers in providing students with experiences that require students to use engineering design practices and science understanding to solve a real-world problem, thereby promoting a robust understanding of science and engineering, and motivating students to increased interest in science and engineering.

Award Number: 
1417939
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) outline the science competencies students should demonstrate through their K-12 years and represent a commitment to integrate engineering design into the structure of science education. However, achieving this new ideal of teaching and learning will require new curricular and pedagogical supports for teachers as well as new and time-efficient assessment methods. This project will provide such curricular and pedagogical support by developing and evaluating teacher-ready curricular Digital Internship Modules for Engineering (DIMEs). DIMES will be designed to support middle school science teachers in providing students with experiences that require students to use engineering design practices and science understanding to solve a real-world problem, thereby promoting a robust understanding of science and engineering, and motivating students to increased interest in science and engineering. The modules will also assess students' ability to apply their science knowledge in solving the engineering problem, thereby providing teachers with actionable data about the depth of their students' science and engineering understanding. The DIMEs will be environments where students work as interns at a simulated engineering firm. 

The Digital Internship Modules for Engineering will provide immersive experiences that simultaneously serve as learning and assessment opportunities. DIMEs will assess not only whether students understand NGSS science and engineering concepts, but also whether they can use them in the context of real-world problem solving. Teachers will orchestrate DIMEs using a custom-designed teacher interface that will show student work, auto-generated assessments, and reports on each student's learning progress. This project will build on prior work on NSF-funded computer-based STEM learning environments called epistemic games. Epistemic games are computer role-playing games that have been successfully used in both undergraduate engineering courses and informal settings for K-12 populations to teach students to think like STEM professionals, thereby preparing them to solve 21st century problems. The project will create six ten-day activities, two each in Physical Science, Life Science and Earth Science units that are typically taught in middle school. An iterative research and design process is used to conduct pilot tests of the six DIMEs in local classrooms, field test a beta version of each DIME with 15 teachers and up to 1500 students in national classrooms, and then implement final versions of each DIME in research trials with 30 teachers and up to 3000 students in national classrooms. By bringing cutting-edge developments in learning science and undergraduate engineering education to middle school STEM education, the project aims to improve educational practice, and enhance assessment of learning outcomes in middle school science classroom settings.

Changing Culture in Robotics Classroom (Collaborative Research: Shoop)

Computational and algorithmic thinking are new basic skills for the 21st century. Unfortunately few K-12 schools in the United States offer significant courses that address learning these skills. However many schools do offer robotics courses. These courses can incorporate computational thinking instruction but frequently do not. This research project aims to address this problem by developing a comprehensive set of resources designed to address teacher preparation, course content, and access to resources.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1418199
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Full Description: 

Computational and algorithmic thinking are new basic skills for the 21st century. Unfortunately few K-12 schools in the United States offer significant courses that address learning these skills. However many schools do offer robotics courses. These courses can incorporate computational thinking instruction but frequently do not. This research project aims to address this problem by developing a comprehensive set of resources designed to address teacher preparation, course content, and access to resources. This project builds upon a ten year collaboration between Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Academy and the University of Pittsburgh's Learning Research and Development Center that studied how teachers implement robotics education in their classrooms and developed curricula that led to significant learning gains. This project will address the following three questions:

1.What kinds of resources are useful for motivating and preparing teachers to teach computational thinking and for students to learn computational thinking?

2.Where do teachers struggle most in teaching computational thinking principles and what kinds of supports are needed to address these weaknesses?

3.Can virtual environments be used to significantly increase access to computational thinking principles?

The project will augment traditional robotics classrooms and competitions with Robot Virtual World (RVW) that will scaffold student access to higher-order problems. These virtual robots look just like real-world robots and will be programmed using identical tools but have zero mechanical error. Because dealing with sensor, mechanical, and actuator error adds significant noise to the feedback students' receive when programming traditional robots (thus decreasing the learning of computational principles), the use of virtual robots will increase the learning of robot planning tasks which increases learning of computational thinking principles. The use of RVW will allow the development of new Model-Eliciting Activities using new virtual robotics challenges that reward creativity, abstraction, algorithms, and higher level programming concepts to solve them. New curriculum will be developed for the advanced concepts to be incorporated into existing curriculum materials. The curriculum and learning strategies will be implemented in the classroom following teacher professional development focusing on computational thinking principles. The opportunities for incorporating computationally thinking principles in the RVW challenges will be assessed using detailed task analyses. Additionally regression analyses of log-files will be done to determine where students have difficulties. Observations of classrooms, surveys of students and teachers, and think-alouds will be used to assess the effectiveness of the curricula in addition to pre-and post- tests to determine student learning outcomes.

A Study Group on Diversity, Equity and Excellence in Achievement and Assessment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education

This project seeks to find ways to make the measurement sciences more useful to the production of intellective competence in diverse students of the STEM disciplines. A Study Group on Diversity, Equity and Excellence in Achievement and Assessment in STEM Education will be established to address a set of issues posed as critical to the future of assessment for education and will undertake a series of activities culminating in the production of a report.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1433181
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Mon, 02/29/2016
Full Description: 

This project seeks to find ways to make the measurement sciences more useful to the production of intellective competence in diverse students of the STEM disciplines. A Study Group on Diversity, Equity and Excellence in Achievement and Assessment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education will be established to address a set of issues posed as critical to the future of assessment for education. Building on the work of the Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment in Education, the Study Group will undertake a series of activities culminating in the production of a report to the field including conceptual analyses, knowledge syntheses findings, and recommended specifications for a program of research and development to advance STEM education through assessment for education.

The Study Group will consist of fifteen research scientists and scholars of pedagogical practice who are being organized to inquire into the potential of the measurement sciences to more effectively inform the teaching and learning of STEM subject matter for students whose development is challenged by the demands of diversity, equity and excellence in intellective competence. Group members are especially interested in balancing the capabilities of the measurement sciences in the assessment of developed abilities, with equal strength in the analysis, documentation and understanding of the learning and teaching processes by which intellective competence is developed. The Group will conduct a conceptual inquiry into the interrelatedness of diversity, equity, and achievement in STEM. Special attention will be given to variance in attributions, contexts and perspectives associated with differences in life conditions, cultural experience and cultural identity. The Study Group will utilize in-person and virtual deliberations; consultative conversations; and commissioned position and review papers to generate recommendations and suggested specifications for programs of research, development and praxis designed to better inform the teaching and, especially, the learning of STEM disciplines.

Multimedia Engineering Notebook Tools to Support Engineering Discourse in Urban Elementary School Classrooms (Collaborative Research: Wright)

This collaborative, exploratory, learning strand project focuses on improving reflective decision-making among elementary school students during the planning and re-design activities of the engineering design process. Five teacher researchers in three elementary schools provide the classroom laboratories for the study. Specified units from Engineering is Elementary, a well-studied curriculum, provide the engineering content.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1411660
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2013 to Tue, 07/31/2018
Full Description: 

This collaborative, exploratory, learning strand project focuses on improving reflective decision-making among elementary school students during the planning and re-design activities of the engineering design process. Five teacher researchers in three elementary schools provide the classroom laboratories for the study. Specified units from Engineering is Elementary, a well-studied curriculum, provide the engineering content. In year one, the qualitative research observes student discourse as students develop designs. Based on the results, a paper engineering note book with prompts is designed for use in year two while a digital notebook is developed. In year three, the students use the digital notebook to develop their designs and redesigns.

The research identifies patterns of language that contribute to the reflective discourse and determines how the paper and electronic versions of the notebook improve the discourse. An advisory committee provides advice and evaluation. The notebooks are described in conference proceedings and made available online.

This work synthesizes what is known about the use of the notebooks in science and engineering education at the elementary school and investigates how to improve their use through digital media.

Associated with award number 1316910 with the same title.

Multimedia Engineering Notebook Tools to Support Engineering Discourse in Urban Elementary School Classrooms (Collaborative Research: Paugh)

This collaborative, exploratory, learning strand project focuses on improving reflective decision-making among elementary school students during the planning and re-design activities of the engineering design process. Five teacher researchers in three elementary schools provide the classroom laboratories for the study. Specified units from Engineering is Elementary, a well-studied curriculum, provide the engineering content.

Award Number: 
1316762
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2013 to Sun, 07/31/2016
Full Description: 

This collaborative, exploratory, learning strand project focuses on improving reflective decision-making among elementary school students during the planning and re-design activities of the engineering design process. Five teacher researchers in three elementary schools provide the classroom laboratories for the study. Specified units from Engineering is Elementary, a well-studied curriculum, provide the engineering content. In year one, the qualitative research observes student discourse as students develop designs. Based on the results, a paper engineering note book with prompts is designed for use in year two while a digital notebook is developed. In year three, the students use the digital notebook to develop their designs and redesigns.

The research identifies patterns of language that contribute to the reflective discourse and determines how the paper and electronic versions of the notebook improve the discourse. An advisory committee provides advice and evaluation. The notebooks are described in conference proceedings and made available online.

This work synthesizes what is known about the use of the notebooks in science and engineering education at the elementary school and investigates how to improve their use through digital media.

Primary School Organizations as Open Systems: Strategic External Relationship Development to Promote Student Engagement in STEM Topics

This study explores the following issues in 9 schools across 3 neighborhoods: (1) How student engagement in STEM is enabled and constrained by the school's relations with its external community; (2) The similarities and differences in partnerships across different types of schools in three different urban neighborhoods by mapping networks, and assessing the costs and benefits of creating, maintaining, and dissolving network ties; and (3) How to model school and network decisions, relations, and resources using an operations research framework.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1344266
Funding Period: 
Tue, 10/01/2013 to Fri, 09/30/2016
Full Description: 

This INSPIRE award is partially funded by the Science of Organization Program in the Division of Social and Economic Sciences in the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate, and the Math and Science Partnership Program and the Discovery Research K-12 program in the Division of Research on Learning in the Education and Human Resources Directorate.

Our country faces a decline in student engagement, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines and among underrepresented minority groups. Most often this problem is discussed in the context of an achievement gap, where racial and socioeconomic groups perform unequally on academic assessments. To understand what creates the achievement gap, researchers must understand the STEM "opportunity gap" that exists between students from different backgrounds, where these same students achieve differently because of varying exposure to out-of-school enrichment and learning experiences. The STEM opportunity gap arises from the inequity of out-of-school learning experiences for children. Therefore, efforts to engage minorities and women in STEM in primary schools will only succeed if we consider the complex organizational environment in which primary schools operate. The focus of this study is on what interorganizational relationships are necessary for schools to maintain to ensure equitable, efficient, and effective opportunities for students to engage in STEM. External relationships require schools to commit time and resources, and schools must decide which relationships to develop and maintain. Understanding what kinds of relationships particular school types invest in and what level of effort to commit to maintaining those relationships is important for improving student engagement opportunities in STEM.

Specifically, the study explores the following issues in 9 schools across 3 neighborhoods in Chicago, IL:

(1) How student engagement in STEM is enabled and constrained by the school's relations with its external community.

(2) The similarities and differences in partnerships, particularly STEM-related partnerships, across different types of schools in three different urban neighborhoods by mapping networks, and assessing the costs and benefits of creating, maintaining, and dissolving network ties.

(3) How to model school and network decisions, relations, and resources using an operations research framework. The model prescribes network configurations that address strategic, tactical, and operational concerns, to ensure the school will equitably, efficiently, and effectively utilize partners to improve student engagement in STEM.

Engineering for All (EfA)

This project creates, tests and revises two-six week prototypical modules for middle school technology education classes, using the unifying themes and important social contexts of food and water. The modules employ engineering design as the core pedagogy and integrate content and practices from the standards for college and career readiness.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316601
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/15/2013 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

The Engineering for All project creates, tests and revises two-six week prototypical modules for middle school technology education classes, using the unifying themes and important social contexts of food and water. The modules employ engineering design as the core pedagogy and integrate content and practices from the standards for college and career readiness. Embedded assessments are developed and tested to make student learning visible to both teachers and students. Professional development for a limited group of teachers is used to increase their knowledge of engineering design and to test instruments being developed to measure (a) student and teacher capacity to employ informed design practices and (b) teacher design pedagogical content knowledge.

The project leadership is experienced at creating materials for engineering and technology and in providing professional development for teachers. The assessments and instruments are created by educational researchers. The advisory board includes engineers, science and engineering educators, and educational researchers to guide the development of the modules, the assessments and the instruments. An external evaluator reviews the protocols and their implementation.

This project has the potential to provide exemplary materials and assessments for engineering/technology education that address standards, change teacher practice, and increase the capacity of the engineering/technology education community to do research.

ITEAMS Longitudinal Study

The objective of this study is to examine the impact of ITEAMS intervention strategies on student persistence in high school STEM course-taking and career expectations, and the value that students place on STEM careers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1355323
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/15/2013 to Wed, 04/30/2014
Full Description: 

The objective of this study at Harvard University is to examine the impact of ITEAMS (Innovative Technology-Enabled Astronomy for Middle Schools) intervention strategies on student persistence in high school STEM course-taking and career expectations, and the value that students place on STEM careers. The central research questions are: 1) does ITEAMS participation boost students' STEM course-taking and their interest in, and valuation of, STEM careers throughout their high school years; 2) to what extent did students' ITEAMS experiences, in terms of knowledge and disposition, have an effect; and 3) which ITEAMS strategies or attributes have been most effective in bringing about positive outcomes? Special focus is on the predictors of persistence for girls and minority students.

The project utilizes a mix of interviews and surveys with current high school students who in previous years participated in ITEAMS (DRL-0833378) as middle-school students, and who are now juniors and seniors. The project surveys a randomly selected cohort of 75 former ITEAMS participants who were enrolled in ITEAMS for two or three years. The project-specific survey instrument includes pertinent demographic questions. The random selection of up to 15 surveyed ITEAMS students for in-depth interviews is also included.

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