National Science Foundation Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) Grant
Recent reports from the Office of the President of the United States and the National Academy of Engineering urge the nation to increase student retention in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and to educate a STEM-literate populace. Uninspiring introductory courses, poor teaching, and lack of effective dissemination of best-practices are major obstacles that stand in the way of achieving these goals. Faculty members from Princeton University, Virginia Tech and the University of Massachusetts Amherst are partnering on a project entitled "Advancing the Dissemination of the Creative Art of Structural/Civil Engineering" with the aim of overcoming these obstacles through supporting the dissemination and implementation of an introductory civil engineering course that is to be enhanced with research-based pedagogy. The main objectives of the project are to:
- transform an introductory engineering course with dramatically improved interactivity and accessibility for non-STEM students;
- ensure that the course takes a form that can be readily adopted into the engineering and general education curricula of many types of institutions of higher education (e.g., undergraduate institutions, research universities, etc.); and
- facilitate dissemination, adoption, and continuous improvement of the courses beyond the audience already being reached.
Members of the Council on Science and Technology serve as Co-PI (Evelyn Laffey) and part of the management team (Aatish Bhatia and Joseph Capizzi). Their main responsibilities include leading project evaluation and supporting the infusion of evidenced-based teaching practices into the targeted courses. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF DUE 14-32426, 14-31717, and 14-31609).
STL Courses for the Freshmen Scholars Institute
The Princeton University Freshmen Scholars Institute (FSI) aims to engage a highly motivated community of incoming freshmen in rigorous coursework and meaningful social and professional development. As evidenced by the existing research literature, summer bridge programs, like the FSI, increase retention and graduation rates, as well as improve students’ self-efficacy and social capital. Some of the salient features of summer bridge and first-year engineering experiences that contribute to student success include: using evidenced-based teaching practices, providing opportunities for students to engage in authentic scientific and engineering endeavors early-and-often, and cultivating opportunities to enhance faculty-student interaction. The Council partnered with the FSI management team and faculty in Molecular Biology and Electrical Engineering to assist with the development and evaluation of two new courses: MOL 152 Laboratory Research in the Life Sciences and EGR/STC150 Foundations of Engineering. The development of the courses was informed by existing literature on STEM education and findings from a study conducted by the Council in 2014.
The Council supported Prof. Rebecca Burdine (Molecular Biology and Member of CST Executive Committee) in hosting the 2015 Northeast Summer Institute (SI). The Northeast SI welcomed over 45 faculty from diverse academic institutions to Princeton University in June 2015. The institutes emerged from the 2003 National Research Council report, Bio2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists. The report concludes that faculty development is a crucial component of improving undergraduate education. It recommends that universities provide faculty with opportunities to refine classroom techniques and better integrate math and physical sciences concepts into biology instruction. The summer institutes bring science faculty and instructional staff together to improve education by integrating current scientific research and pedagogical approaches to create courses that actively engage students in the ways that scientists think. The summer institutes provide venues for college and university faculty and instructional staff to meet for intensive discussions, demonstrations, and working sessions on research-based approaches to undergraduate education (http://www.academiessummerinstitute.org).
Women in STEM Panel and Academic Expo
In welcoming the Class of 2018, the Council on Science and Technology hosted the annual Women in STEM Panel and participated in the Academic Expo during Freshmen Orientation. The Women in STEM Panel was moderated by the Council Director, Prof. Naomi Leonard (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering). Panel participants included: Abby Doyle (Chemistry), Danelle Davenport (Molecular Biology), Rebecca Fiebrink (Computer Science), and Natalie Saenz and Elizabeth Yang (Women in Science Colloquium student representatives). During the Academic Expo, members of the Council staff greeted students, shared information, and answered questions.
The Evnin Lectures were established with a gift from Anthony B. Evnin to promote a better understanding of the critical roles of science and technology in all aspects of human endeavor. Since 1991, the Council on Science and Technology has invited luminaries in the fields of science, math, engineering and technology to explore topics of interest to a broad audience. These lectures are free and open to the public.
Co-Curricular and Informal Learning Experiences
With the intent of promoting and celebrating the role of STEM in society, the Council supported the following co-curricular or informal learning experiences:
- In co-sponsorship with the Keller Center for Innovation in Engineering Education, the Council supported two undergraduate students (a computer science major and a music major) for an informal learning opportunity with Jeff Snyder (Music Department). The purpose of the project was to explore how hardware and software design can relate to the arts and culture. The students worked directly on the development and release of a new electronic wind instrument for professional musical performance. The students worked closely with the case study users (five professional musicians) over the summer to understand the needs of performers and then used their feedback to guide development. The goal of the instrument is to appeal to musicians from multiple genres of music, so gaining an understanding of the needs of these different musical cultures was important to the process.
- In co-sponsorship with the Office of Sustainability, the Council supported two undergraduate students for a summer internship. The students engaged in a mapping project that documented the history, environment, and people of Princeton University. The students worked closely with Catherine Riihimaki (CST), Shana Webber (Sustainability), the Campus 2026 Planning Team, and various other University departments and units. They developed a 40-page guidebook that documents their spatial analysis of the campus’ evolution from 1756 to 2015.