Engineering education faculty earn $500K+ in NSF project funding

Posted: 
collage photo of Professors Delaine, Dringenberg and Carberry
(L to R) Associate Professor David Delaine, Associate Professor Emily Dringenberg, and Professor and Chair Adam Carberry

Faculty from The Ohio State University College of Engineering will lead two new research projects that will improve the way engineering students are taught and ultimately strengthen the engineering workforce. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the projects collectively received more than $500,000 in support.

Engineering Education Associate Professors David Delaine and Emily Dringenberg will lead the three-year project, “Developing reflexive engineers through accessing and characterizing implicit beliefs about the value of diverse perspectives in service-learning.”

Solving society’s most complex problems requires input from engineers and non-engineers who have diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking. A good engineer must know how technology works, but even more importantly, how technology might affect people and society. Therefore it is imperative that engineering faculty prepare their students to collaborate with others and to respect their ideas. Delaine and Dringenberg’s project will explore what engineering students believe about non-engineers when they are working together to solve problems in a community.

According to Delaine, the research team will accomplish this goal by investigating different ways of determining what engineering students believe about those who are not engineers, grouping students’ beliefs into categories that allow exploration of trends, and working together with a team of students, community partners and teachers to brainstorm ideas on how students can learn more about themselves.

“These findings will help make future professional engineers better, by showing students the importance of treating those who are not engineers with respect and valuing their ideas,” said Delaine.

“Our goal is to ensure that members of society do not experience negative impacts because of what engineers think or believe,” added Dringenberg. “This research will help engineering faculty teach in a way that truly makes engineering work benefit all of society by improving the way engineers solve problems.”

Engineering Education Professor and Chair Adam Carberry will collaborate with researchers at Bucknell University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University on the three-year project, “Trust but verify: The use of intuition in engineering problem solving.”

The goal of Carberry’s project is to examine the application of intuition by engineering practitioners and generate knowledge that promotes the professional formation of engineers and development of a stronger engineering workforce.

“Engineering intuition is a problem-solving skill developed through experience that engineering practitioners subconsciously use when under pressure from constraints, such as lack of time,” he said. “Engineers regularly use and develop intuition on-the-job; however, the use of intuition is often discouraged in undergraduate education.”

Carberry’s research will focus on the use of intuition in engineering problem solving, solving “ill” versus “well” structured engineering problems, and prior engineering experience levels when engineers solve structured problems. Engineering professionals with between zero and 10 years of experience will participate.

“This work will provide a foundation for bridging the disconnect between classroom and real-world engineering practices,” said Carberry. “By designing educational interventions that promote early intuition development, we can help level the playing field for all students regardless of their background, including past engineering experiences.”

by Meggie Biss, College of Engineering Communications | biss.11@osu.edu