Several engineering education projects earn NSF grants

Millions in grant money from the National Science Foundation underline a new breadth of educational research at Purdue University.

The College of Engineering announced more than $10.5 million in grant funding was awarded this semester to 11 projects involving faculty in the School of Engineering Education.

The projects cover all education levels of engineering.

Among the bigger funding recipients is the three-year project "Integrated STEM and Computing Learning in Formal and Informal Settings for Kindergarten to Second Grade."

The project received $2.04 million in funding from the NSF. INSPIRE director and associate professor Monica Cardella is the principal investigator, joined by associate professors Sean Brophy, Tamara Moore and Senay Purzer and assistant professor Morgan Hynes.

Cardella said the project delves into using an integrated approach for learning rather than historically separating math from science from history from literacy.

"Curricular materials like the ones we are developing that weave together science, math, literacy, engineering design and now computational thinking allow children to have learning experiences that are closer to everyday life," she said.

Cardella said people often underestimate what children are capable of.

"Even kindergarteners, first-graders and second-graders can engage in engineering design and computational thinking if we develop activities that are developmentally appropriate," she said.

The project is set up to function in concert with Glen Acres and New Community schools and the science center, Imagination Station, all in Lafayette, Ind. Work with homeschooling families also is planned.

Other NSF-funded projects include $1.4 million going toward "Understanding and Supporting Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Student and Faculty Engagement with an Active, Blended and Collaborative Learning Environment," by engineering education assistant professor Jennifer DeBoer and associate professor Ed Berger and mechanical engineering associate professor Jeff Rhoads. The study looks at the Purdue Mechanics Freeform Classroom, including the student and instructor experience as well as the importance of disciplinary content and institutional setting.

Also on the list of projects receiving NSF grants was "Contextualized Evaluation Framework for Advanced STEM MOOCS," by visiting assistant professor Kerrie Douglas, professor Heidi Diefes-Duz, associate professor Krishna Madhaven and electrical and computer engineering assistant professor Peter Bermel; "BIGDATA: Smart Data – Academic Success made Affordable, Rapid and Timely through Integrated Data Analytics," by Madhaven, professor Matthew Ohland, Diefes-Dux, Gallagher Professor of Engineering Education Michael Loui, electrical and computer engineering senior research scientist Michael Zentner and Polytechnic Institute associate professor Mihaela Vorvoreanu; "Collaborative Research: Building Supports for Diversity through Engineering Teams," by assistant professor Allison Godwin; "An Engineer Like Me: Perceived Similarity and Peer Effects Influence Student Major Choice" and "Collaborative  Research: Understanding the Role of High Schools in Diversifying and Promoting Undergraduate Engineering Degree Attainment," both by assistant professor Joyce Main; "Transformative Approaches to Teaching User-Centered Design," by Hynes and mechanical engineering assistant professor Taira Reid; and "Intellectual Diversity and Critical Thinking Skills in Service Learning Award," by professor Bill Oakes.

Two other projects totaling $5.1 million were announced earlier in the academic year. 

Writer: Brian L. Huchel, 765-494-2084,

Source: Teresa Morris, 765-494-2223,