American Innovations in an Age of Discovery: Teaching Science and Engineering through Historical Reconstruction
NSF # 1510289 (2015-2018)
The proposed course will be modeled on an introduction to engineering developed at Princeton in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution. In this course, developed by David Billington and Michael Littman, students learn science engineering, and design through the coherent and engaging story of great inventions. The transparency and simplicity of these inventions make them unparalleled in their ability to illuminate their revolutionary underlying ideas. During the second industrial revolution (mid-19th century to 1914), science was applied to engineering on a large scale for the first time. The result was many of the great innovations that shaped the world (i.e., telegraph, electric motors, telephone, and radio). Today, students are surrounded by technology that was made possible by these early predecessors; however, modern technology is complex and opaque. The narrative arc of these early inventions provides a framework for understanding foundational principles. The proposed content to be developed will build upon a new 3D initiative (http://3d.si.edu) launched by the Smithsonian, which makes it possible to digitize and interact with three dimensional models of artifacts from the Smithsonian collection. This capability will support analysis and reconstruction of a series of inventions in the Smithsonian archives. The Smithsonian will provide a three-dimensional scan of inventions in its 3D explorer, where students can use the explorer’s functionality and tools to aid their design work as they reconstruct a working model of the invention.
Going Green! MSOSW NSF ITEST # 1312168 (2013-2019)
The project aims at helping middle school students understand the relationship between energy, economics, and climate change by monitoring home energy consumption. Students use energy monitoring equipment to assess the amount of stand-by power consumed by their home appliances and entertainment devices when these units are powered off Service-Learning is the theoretical foundation underlying the project, which is based on a student empowerment model that values the contributions of students to solve problems in an extended project-based, problem-solving learning environment. The project seeks to investigate the necessary conditions to expand learning opportunities and outcomes from a previous project with sixth graders in new learning environments with diverse ethnic groups, rural areas, alternative schools, and different climate zones. The scale-up plan addresses depth (deep belief change), sustainability (maintaining the innovation over time), spread (diffusion of the innovation to a large number of classrooms), shift in reform ownership (comes to be owned and maintained by the local school), and evolution (project revision by a reflective community of practice over time) (Dede, 2006). To accomplish its goals, the University of North Texas partners with Whyville, a learning-based virtual environment that encompasses Whypower, a middle school program and supplemental curriculum that teaches the mathematics and science of energy.
FAB @ School Classroom NSF ITEST # 1030865 (2010-2015)
This project was established to prepare students for the workforce revolution and encourage them to pursue STEM-related careers; we will do this by developing fabrication laboratories (FabLabs) for the elementary classroom. The Classroom FabLab is a scaled-down version of the FabLab developed by Neil Gershenfeld at MIT. The Classroom FabLab hardware employs similar principles, but fabricates materials such as paper, cardstock, and vinyl instead of metal and wood. Consequently Classroom FabLab systems can be developed for a cost of as little as $500 rather than $50,000 to $100,000.
The FabLab makes digital fabrication in the elementary and middle-school grades scalable and will allow students to learn skills and concepts such as 3D visualization that are equally applicable to larger industrial systems. The Classroom FabLab will be used to enhance technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM) instruction while preparing students for the STEM workforce.