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Ohio State earns collaborative NSF grant to broaden high schoolers’ interest in STEM

The Ohio State University College of Engineering, in collaboration with Ohio Northern University (ONU) and Olathe Northwest High School (ONWHS) in Kansas, has earned a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to implement engineering design activities in high school science classrooms. The project could provide a model of how to support busy and resource-constrained STEM teachers and create broader student interest in STEM careers.

The project, “Promoting Engineering Problem Framing Skill Development in High School Science and Engineering Courses,” was designed and submitted by ONU faculty members Blake Hylton and Todd France, together with Senior Lecturer Patrick Herak of Ohio State’s Department of Engineering Education and Bruce Wellman of ONWHS. Ohio State will receive $121,957 of the three-year $450,000 grant, which began on August 1. The funding source is the Discovery Research in PreK-12 program (DRK12) of the NSF Directorate for Education and Human Resources.

The goal of the research is to develop curricular activities and assessment guidance for K-12 science and engineering educators who seek to incorporate engineering design content in their biology, chemistry and physics classes.

“This work is important because students’ limited exposure to engineering activities can negatively impact their decisions to enroll in STEM courses and to pursue engineering careers,” said Hylton, associate professor of engineering at ONU.

Herak“I think this is a great opportunity to create low budget resources for schools to implement more engineering in their STEM classes,” added Herak. “Right now there are many other ventures and projects that do a very nice job, but aren't accessible for all schools because of the high budgets involved.”

The project’s main objectives are to design, field-test and evaluate the impact of 12 Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned, engineering problem-framing design activities on students enrolled in grades nine through 12 science courses and to develop strategies for high school science teachers in these areas. ONU will the lead the implementation, while Ohio State will head the data analysis portion of the project.

Initial interventions will be piloted with one teacher in the fall of 2018, according to Herak. Additional teacher trainings will follow in the summer, when data analysis will be underway.