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INSPIRE researchers explore how providing humanistic contexts for engineering design problems can improve students' engineering skills AND appeal to a broader, more diverse audience of students.

INSPIRE Projects

For more details on individual projects, select one from the following:

Description of Project:
Prior to and following engineering instruction, students in grades two to four were asked to draw a picture of an engineer at work and write a sentence describing their picture. Two coding systems have been developed to analyze the data. The first coding system is a descriptive catalog of elements represented in student drawings. The second coding system assigns one code to each drawing, indicating the type of work represented in the drawing. Data will be used to better understand the effect of an engineering intervention on elementary students’ perceptions of engineers.

Faculty:
Heidi Diefes-Dux*, Johannes Strobel

Staff:
Daphne Wiles

Graduate Students:
Ron Carr

Undergraduate Students:
Susha Kharchenko

Funding Source of Project:
DRK-12


Description of Project:
Change in elementary students’ conceptions of engineering has been studied using the Draw-an-
Engineering Test (DAET) prior to and following a curriculum intervention. This instrument asks
students to draw an engineer doing engineering work and then write about what the engineer is
doing, typically in a sentence or two. The purpose of this study is to further analyze the effectiveness of teacher professional
development and teacher practices through a simplified analysis of student drawings.

Faculty:
Dr. Heidi* Diefes-Dux
Graduate Students: Ronald L. Carr
Undergraduate Students: Ben Horstman and Alex Niccum

Funding Source of Project:
DRK-12


Partnership with the Science Museum of Minnesota

Research Questions:

  • What are the different ways that adults interact with their children while engaging in informal engineering learning experiences?
  • What gender differences exist in the way adult females and males interact with their female children during these experiences?
  • How are gender differences affected when learning environments are infused with connections to personal and societal issues (context)?

Activity and Sample:
Three different informal engineering learning environments
Parents with children aged 3-11
Parents and children engage in the engineering design process and use engineering vocabulary

Frameworks and Instruments:
Islands of Expertise framework,  Adult-Child Interaction Inventory, Selinda Model of Visitor Research


Partnership with WGBH-Boston

Research Questions:
How do informal engineering programs (such as DESIGN SQUAD) support engineering-related learning over time (i.e., engineering pathways), specifically among middle school students?  What is the profile of students who benefit the most?  How much and what types of exposure support positive outcomes?  What engineering pathways do children pursue after informal programs?

Activity and Sample:
60 middle school students, 30 in MA and 30 in IN, their parents, teachers and affiliated informal educators
Provide students with online educational resources and activities

Framework, Instruments, and Analysis:
Motivational Framework:  Bandura’s Social Cognitive Career Theory
Data collection:  Semi-structured interviews and surveys over three years
Analysis:  Case study and coding of interview transcripts


As people engage in real-life situations, they draw from their full knowledge base and skillset. Integrating science, engineering, mathematics, computational thinking and literacy in educational experiences for pre-college students can better prepare students for real-world situations while also allowing teachers to add engineering and computing to the school day without diminishing their focus on mathematics and literacy. At the same time, we know children only spend about 18% of their waking hours in formal school environments -- thus we can promote learning by capitalizing on the time spent in out-of-school settings and making connections across school and out-of-school settings.

In this project, we integrate computational thinking into the PictureSTEM curriculum (which integrates STEM+literacy), develop extension activities to further support computing learning, develop science center exhibits, and develop resources for parents to help K-2nd grade students learn engineering design and computational thinking skills while also developing proficiency in mathematics, science, and literacy.

At the same time, we develop assessment frameworks, tools and approaches and conduct research on the student learning that takes place in the school and science center settings. Specifically, we investigate:

  • What does student learning look like in an integrated STEM+C school-based environment?
    • What does integration of STEM+C in K-2 classrooms look like?
    • How do K-2 students demonstrate engineering thinking in the refined PictureSTEM+C curriculum? (and How is this different from the ways K-2 demonstrated engineering thinking with the original Picture STEM curriculum?)
    • How do K-2 students demonstrate computational thinking in the refined PictureSTEM+C curriculum?
  • What does student learning look like in an integrated STEM+C informal learning environment?
    • What does integration of STEM+C in a science center look like?
    • How do K-2 students demonstrate engineering thinking as they engage with the STEM+C exhibits?
    • How do K-2 students demonstrate computational thinking as they engage with the STEM+C exhibits?
  • In what ways (if at all) do students make connections across the school and science center (and potentially other) settings?

Partners include:
New Community School , Glen Acres Elementary School, Imagination Station, WBAA Public Radio and the Covenant Homeschool Corporation.


Description of Project:
A model of student interest has been designed based on previous research across multiple content areas and will be applied to elementary students learning engineering in the classroom. Student interview transcripts from AISD years 1-4 will be coded based on the model of interest to identify triggers of interest, or events that lead elementary students to form an interest in engineering, either situated or maintained.

Faculty:
Dr. Johannes Strobel, Dr. Heidi A. Diefes-Dux
Graduate Students: Ronald L. Carr
Undergraduate Students: Brett Kult

Funding Source of Project:
DRK-12


Description of Project:
The NHEA Pua Lililehua Project (The Beloved Children of Palolo Valley) was developed by Chaminade University’s Education Division in collaboration with Ke Kula Kaiapuni ‘O Ānuenue, a public K-12 Hawaiian language immersion school and Palolo Elementary School, a public K-5 school.
The overarching goal of this project is to improve student achievement in technology, engineering, and mathematics, at the partner elementary schools, by augmenting instruction with new strategies.
INSPIRE provides ongoing teacher professional development, curriculum consulting and assessment services for the participant schools. The teacher professional development began with 40+ teachers participating in the PBS Teacherline STEM 420 course. Following the course, the teachers received ongoing mentoring and curriculum consultation via remote videoconferencing. Further,  members of INSPIRE staff provided in-depth analysis of project outcomes using INSPIRE designed instruments

Faculty:
Dr. Johannes Strobel

Graduate Students:
Ronald L. Carr

Staff:
Elizabeth Gajdzik, Terri Fisher, SoYoon Yoon

Funding Source of Project:
Native Hawaiian Education Act

Partnerships:
Chaminade University
Katherine Kawaguchi
Director, NHEA Grants – Pua Lililehua Projects
Chaminade University of Honolulu
Ph: (808) 739-8540
Fax: (808) 739-4607


Description of Project:
Instrument development to study how participation in STEM activities can increase students’ hope in a better adult life. We are working with students and teachers in Hammond City School District in order to better understand what hope looks like in students who face economic barriers, such as living in poverty.

Funding Source of Project:
Morgridge Family Foundation

Faculty:
Dr. Johannes Strobel
Dr. Senay Purzer
Dr. Anna Douglas

Staff:
Alicia Madeka

Undergraduate Students:
Miles Evans