Inspire: The Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning

Founded in 2006, INSPIRE conducts basic multidisciplinary research in human cognition and concept development in engineering education. The institute, a centerpiece of Purdue's Department of Engineering Education, aims to inform, at the national level, the design of engineering curriculum, student learning environments, and teacher education-all to motivate new generations of pre-college students to embrace engineering.

To ensure broad impact, INSPIRE is initiating and leading an advocacy effort at state and national levels to influence policymaking that will increase the United States' commitment to P-12 engineering education. And to engage teachers, the institute's Summer Academy program offers P-6th grade teachers a week of intensive hands-on training and assistance in developing personalized engineering lesson plans.

"I learned two very important facts by 8:30 a.m. the first day of training," says Summer Academy participant Sandy McMahon. "[First], that I knew absolutely nothing about engineering, and [second], that engineers and teachers don't think alike." It wasn't easy introducing her to the world of engineering, she adds: "I have been challenged every minute of every day,... [but] the staff at Purdue has been phenomenal."

—Rebecca Goldenberg