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  1. This NSF EEC EAGER research project investigates how undergraduate STEM and engineering students’ learning trajectories evolve over time, from 1st year to senior year, along a novice to expert spectrum. We borrow the idea of “learning trajectories” from mathematics education that can paint the evolution of students’ knowledge and skills over time over a set of learning experiences. We use a theoretical framework based on adaptive expertise and design thinking adaptive expertise to further advance a design learning continuum.
  2. Engineers are uniquely positioned to create solutions that do not yet exist. The National Academy of Engineering’s Changing the Conversation report includes specific messaging that engineers design the future. One can invent and integrate technology in new ways to make a future happen. Mechanical engineering students are well placed to become fluent with technology as well as achieving a better understanding of how one might apply that to create something novel and of value. Whether it be more efficient means for transportation that are less impactful on the environment, or a new widget that makes interactions more meaningful, there is a physical scale and scope of impact that mechanical engineers can impart directly with stakeholders and users. Because items imagined can be within the size of consumer products where solutions may be simply created and mocked up, there is a unique opportunity to better understand these students’ behaviors in designing and prototyping. This research project explores how a cohort of senior mechanical engineering students can design and prototype solutions for a problem today, and how their solutions are changed when asked to be placed out into the future. We are curious about the similarities and differences in their approaches alongmore »aspects of the design process (cognition) and in the design result (artifacts). This project allows us to explore how engineering students conceive of the breadth of impact of engineering on the future 5-10-20 years out through reviewing their work and classifying their work product.« less
  3. Traditionally, engineering design is taught as a tool for synthesis and integration of engineering content knowledge for students in capstone courses. These engineering design courses are usually successful, in that the students do well, they come up with innovative solutions, and they are satisfied with their school experience and feel ready for the real world. But, what is the evidence that students have actually learned and can apply their design and engineering learning successfully for synthesis and integration? What are the student’s own understandings of the design process and engineering design practice? How might they conceive of their own engineering and design epistemic identities? This work investigates these questions.
  4. This NSF EAGER research paper investigates how undergraduate STEM and engineering students’ learning trajectories evolve over time, from 1st to senior year, along a novice to expert spectrum. We borrow the idea of “learning trajectories” from mathematics education that can paint the evolution of students’ knowledge and skills over time over a set of learning experiences. Curricula for undergraduate engineering programs can reflect an intended pathway of knowledge construction within a discipline. We intend our study of individual students within undergraduate STEM and engineering programs can highlight how this may happen in situ and how it may be similar or might differ from a given, prescribed programs of study among disciplines. We use a theoretical framework based in adaptive expertise and design thinking adaptive expertise to develop a design learning continuum further. Envisioned routes through disciplinary undergraduate curricula and student conceptions of their design process are explored through qualitative, semi-structured interviews with undergraduate 1st year and senior year students across STEM, engineering and non-STEM field such as computer science, mechanical engineering, general engineering, mathematics, science, English, and art. We also conduct similar interviews with faculty in these fields who are responsible and knowledgeable for undergraduate programs about their perceived benefitsmore »for the structure of their program’s curriculum. Additional information is collected from noticing the organizational and pedagogical structures of the relative undergraduate curriculum. Initial findings/outcomes suggest that traditions to knowledge construction both differ across disciplinary approaches and have similarities across non-obvious disciplinary relationships. Faculty have a firm understanding of how one class chains from one to another; students have less of a field of view for how mindful chunks of knowledge combine together.« less
  5. This article explores the experiences and opinions of young makers and their parents regarding the integration of maker technologies, activities, and spaces into their schools. By utilizing institutional logic theory as an analytical lens, conflicts between the values, goals, and norms of making and schooling were revealed. The findings suggest that participants view engagement with making as peripheral to, or incommensurate with, the core institutional logic of formal education. While participants showed inter- est in formalizing maker education, they generally concluded that making could not, and perhaps should not, be integral to school. The authors believe that the findings will help educators address these conflicts and cre- ate more sustainable, integrated, and authentic maker-based programs.
  6. The practice of prototyping is challenging to novice designers as they underutilize insights that prototyping offers to solving design problem. Central to this challenge is the abstract nature of design concepts like idea representation, iteration, and problem solution-space exploration. A unique opportunity from mathematics education presents itself for design educators and facilitators; that is, teaching with manipulatives. We seek to transfer such practices in mathematics education to design education and practice. Challenges exist for design researchers to carefully craft activities in design education mainly because of the open-endedness of problems, decision-making that takes place while designing, and the inherent uncertainties in the design problems. Ultimately, the goal is to develop students’ ability to flexibly transfer expertise to other contexts and new design challenges.
  7. This qualitative study examined how a maker-based education workshop affected 20 pre-service STEM teachers’ views of the lesson planning process. Design is used as both an epistemological link between making and teaching practices as well as an analytical lens through which lesson planning could be interpreted and understood. The findings of this study suggest that pre-service teachers who have been introduced to maker-based principles and practices are able to imagine a lesson planning process that is more student-centered and active than the kind which they normally utilize. While there was a contrast between the content of making-based and traditional lesson planning processes, the pre-service teachers’ designs of these processes were largely the same: linear, verbal, and only occasionally reflective or iterative. These characteristics match those of novice designers.
  8. Practical ingenuity is demonstrated in engineering design through many ways. Students and practitioners alike create many iterations of prototypes in solving problems and design challenges. While focus is on the end product and/or the process employed along the way, this study combines these interests to better understand the product and process through the roles of initial prototyping through the creation of such things as alpha prototypes, conceptual mock-ups, and other rapid prototypes. We explore the purposes and affordances of these low-fidelity prototypes in engineering design activity through both synthesis of different perspectives from literature to compose an integrated framework to characterize prototypes that are developed as part of ideation in designing, as well as historic and student examples and case studies. Studying prototyping (activity) and prototypes (artifacts) is a way to studying design thinking and how students and practitioners learn and apply a problem solving process to their work. Prototyping can make readily evident and explicit (through act of creating and the creations themselves) some of the thinking and insights of the engineering designer into the design problem. Initial, low-fidelity prototypes are characterized as prototypes that are not always elaborate depictions containing all the fine details of the design. Inmore »fact, features in a prototype do not always appear in the final design. The underpinning of this work is that prototyping, as a process, is an act of externalizing design thinking, embodying it through physical objects. While several prescriptive frameworks have been developed to describe what prototypes prototype and the role of prototype, the role of low-fidelity prototypes, specifically, lacks sufficient attention. We will present prototyping rather as an holistic mindset that can be a means to approach problem solving in a more accessible manner. It can be helpful to apply this sort of mindset approach from these initial problem understanding through functional decomposition to quickly communicate and learn by trial and building in learning loops to oneself, with an engineering design team, and to potential stakeholders outside the team.« less
  9. The research objective of this NSF-funded study is to explore and understand how open-ended, hands-on making work and activities can reflect student learning trajectories and learning gains in the product-based learning, undergraduate engineering classroom. The aim is to expand understanding of what making learning in the context of engineering design education might be and to illustrate educational pathways within the engineering education curriculum. Making is rooted in constructionism – learning by doing and constructing knowledge through that doing. Aspects of making work and activities that are unique to making that could appear in the engineering classroom or curriculum include: sharing, practical ingenuity, personal investment, playful invention, risk taking, community building and self-directed learning. The main research questions of this work is: How do engineering students learn and apply making? What are the attributes of making in the engineering classroom? Empirical evidence of what making in the engineering classroom looks like, and how it changes over time, and how students conceptualize making through making, designerly, and engineering ways of knowing-doing-acting will come from revisiting and additional qualitative analysis of student project data collected during a product-based learning course engineering design course. To best address the research question, this proposed study proposesmore »multiple qualitative methods to collect and analyze data on engineering students learning making. We aim to triangulate what students think they are learning, what they are being taught, and what students are demonstrating. This work is exploratory in nature. In our approach to understanding making outside of formal engineering education, at events like Maker Faires in the Maker Community, it does seem evident that there is a lot of overlap between a making mindset and a designerly way of knowing or engineering way of knowing. In the sphere of formal engineering education however, making is regularly viewed as lesser than engineering, engineering design without the engineering science or analysis. Making is not yet valued as part of formal engineering education efforts. If making is something that can be connected to beneficial student learning and is additive to the required technical content and provides a means for students to figure out what area of problems they want to tackle in the studies and beyond, it would make for a student-centered making revolution. This study advances the knowledge of the learning pathways of making by capturing empirical evidence of such learning trajectories. This study will advance the currently limited knowledge of learning in the making community and making in the engineering classroom. Initial findings generated during this study describe the learning trajectories of engineers learning making. By examining the engineering student making learning experience through the lens of cognitive science and illustrating empirical making learning trajectories, this work may impact the quality of engineering design teaching. By sharing learning trajectories across multiple communities, we seek to change the conversation by illuminating pathways for a wider array of student makers to become the makers and engineers of the future.« less