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  1. In this paper we explore the ability of educational frameworks focused on developing the entrepreneurial mindset to be used to develop students’ abilities to approach convergent problems. While there is not a single widely accepted definition of convergence, there are some general aspects noted by the NSF including: socially relevant, multidisciplinary, complex, and not being adequately addressed by current methods and practices. Convergent problems require existing disciplines to collaborate to create new knowledge, skills, and approaches in order to be appropriately addressed. We believe that there are aspects of the entrepreneurial mindset and the learning of it that can support the development of knowledge, skills, and attitudes to approach convergent problems. This is relevant because most work on convergent problems happens at the graduate level and beyond and our interest is to create experiences for undergraduates that prepare them to embark on this work after graduation. This study maps entrepreneurial mindset learning (EML) onto a framework based on prior work on convergence to identify the aspects of EML that directly support convergence work or preparation for convergence work. The existing dataset of KEEN cards is used as a proxy for existing work in this space, as well. If existing workmore »in EML can address some or all of the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed for convergent problem solving then engineering educators have a set of tools and practices that can contribute towards creating engineers who are better prepared to work on the hard problems of tomorrow.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  2. This NSF Grantees poster discusses an early phase Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (RED) project which is designed to address preparing engineering students to address large scale societal problems, the solutions of which integrate multiple disciplinary perspectives. These types of problems are often termed “convergent problems”. The idea of convergence captures how different domains of expertise contribute to solving a problem, but also the value of the network of connections between areas of knowledge that is built in undertaking such activities. While most existing efforts at convergence focus at the graduate and post-graduate levels, this project supports student development of capabilities to address convergent problems in an undergraduate disciplinary-based degree program in electrical and computer engineering. This poster discusses some of the challenges faced in implementing such learning including how to decouple engineering topics from societal concerns in ways that are relevant to undergraduate students yet retain aspects of convergence, negotiations between faculty on ways to balance discipline-specific skills with the breadth required for systemic understanding, and challenges in integrating relevant projects into courses with different faculty and instructional learning goals. One of the features of the project is that it builds on ideas from Communities of Transformation by basing activities onmore »a coherent philosophical model that guides theories of change. The project has adopted Amartya Sen’s Development as Freedom or capabilities framework as the organizing philosophy. In this model the freedom for individuals to develop capabilities they value is viewed as both the means and end of development. The overarching goal of the project is then for students to build personalized frameworks based on their value systems which allow them to later address complex, convergent problems. Framework development by individual students is supported in the project through several activities: modifying grading practices to provide detailed feedback on skills that support convergence, eliciting self-narratives from students about their pathways through courses and projects with the goal of developing reflection, and carefully integrating educational software solutions that can reduce some aspects of faculty workload which is hypothesized to enable faculty to focus efforts on integrating convergent projects throughout the curriculum. The poster will present initial results on the interventions to the program including grading, software integration, projects, and narratives. The work presented will also cover an ethnographic study of faculty practices which serves as an early-stage baseline to calibrate longer-term changes.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  3. One of the major changes in the higher education ecosystem over the last decade has been a rise in the availability of education-based software products, including education-based web-pages and web-services. Globally the investment in education-based startups in 2017 was $9.5B which surged to $18.7B in 2019 [1]. The COVID-19 pandemic further fueled record investment in this sector, with the US seeing $2.2B invested in 130 startups in 2020, up from $1.7B in 2019 and $1.4B in 2018 (see [2] and [3]). Early indicators show that 2021 will again see further increases [4]. While the majority (92%) of these investments are aimed at consumer and corporate sectors, there is potential for the innovations developed to diffuse into both the P-12 and higher education spaces [5]. What is evident from the investment numbers is that an integration of learning technologies specifically into higher education is progressing at a relatively slower pace [5]. It is the goal of this work-in-progress to identify some of the reasons for this slower progress. Our hypothesis is that, while some of these reasons may be obvious, there are also more subtle and/or counterintuitive reasons for the reduced interest in higher education. The motivation and need for themore »proposed study grew out of an ongoing NSF RED project where we endeavor to fuse the concept of convergence, loosely defined as “deep integration,” into our undergraduate engineering curriculum. Increasingly software and data systems at colleges and universities, and the affordances they do and do not offer, are integral to university structures. If the respective software systems do not support certain activities and functions then the programs are simply not useful to the faculty [6]. Additionally, any subset of systems needs to seamlessly integrate to form a coherent and usable learning support system that faculty, students, and staff can use without issue and/or barrier. The goal of the proposed activity within our grant is, thus, to build structures to collect, analyze, and display data in support of developing skills in addressing convergent problems.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  4. This article details the multi-year process of adding a “design thread” to our department’s electrical and computer engineering curricula. We use the conception of a “thread” to mean a sequence of courses that extend unbroken across each year of the undergraduate curriculum. The design thread includes a project-based introduction to the discipline course in the first year, a course in the second year focusing on measurement and fabrication, a course in the third year to frame technical problems in societal challenges, and culminates with our two-semester, client-driven fourth-year capstone design sequence. The impetus to create a design thread arose from preparation for an ABET visit where we identified a need for more “systems thinking” within the curriculum, particularly system decomposition and modularity; difficulty in having students make engineering evaluations of systems based on data; and students’ difficulty transferring skills in testing, measurement, and evaluation from in-class lab scenarios to more independent work on projects. We also noted that when working in teams, students operated more collectively than collaboratively. In other words, rather than using task division and specialization to carry out larger projects, students addressed all problems collectively as a group. This paper discusses the process through which faculty developedmore »a shared conception of design to enable coherent changes to courses in the four year sequence and the political and practical compromises needed to create the design thread. To develop a shared conception of design faculty explored several frameworks that emphasized multiple aspects of design. Course changes based on elements of these frameworks included introducing design representations such as block diagrams to promote systems thinking in the first year and consistently utilizing representations throughout the remainder of the four year sequence. Emphasizing modularity through representations also enabled introducing aspects of collaborative teamwork. While students are introduced broadly to elements of the design framework in their first year, later years emphasize particular aspects. The second year course focuses on skills in fabrication and performance measurement while the third year course emphasizes problem context and users, in an iterative design process. The client-based senior capstone experience integrates all seven aspects of our framework. On the political and organizational side implementing the design thread required major content changes in the department’s introductory course, and freeing up six credit-hour equivalents, one and a half courses, in the curriculum. The paper discusses how the ABET process enabled these discussions to occur, other curricular changes needed to enable the design thread to be implemented, and methods which enabled the two degree programs to align faculty motivation, distribute the workload, and understand the impact the curricular changes had on student learning.« less
  5. National surveys of design courses find many similarities between the way capstone courses are structured and implemented, although more programs focus on the design process rather than creating a product. What is not as well understood are the methods and techniques used to inform students of interrelationship between product and process. This paper discusses the use of multiple formal design representations as a means to focus learning on the interrelation between design processes and products. The ability to utilize multiple representations has been demonstrated to be effective in improving student learning in math education, a discipline that can be highly process-oriented. Similarly representational fluency impacts engineering modeling. In the context of teaching design the term representation here refers to a written or graphical expression of some aspect of the design process and/or product. Ideally the set of representations would form a minimal and complete orthonormal basis set; that is the ensemble of representations captures the design in its entirety and the representations are not redundant. Since the design work of many engineers is a set of plans or diagrams (forms of representation) the complete set of representations has the potential to capture both the process of design and serve asmore »a product of design work. Over a four year period a set of representations was developed and trialed in a year-long senior capstone course in electrical and computer engineering at a small, private liberal arts institution. Using an iterative, action research approach that included student input a set of representations was developed by modifying or eliminating ineffective representations and introducing new formats based on analysis of the students’ response and success. To minimize redundancy and work towards completeness (i.e. a lean, 360° view of the process and product) representations were organized using a “design canvas” modeled after the Business Model Canvas. The Design Canvas classifies representations by actionable questions on two axes—system development and design choices— which in turn are organized hierarchically by scale. Results of the project and examples of representations for the current iteration of the Design Canvas are presented along with the Design Canvas development process.« less