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A Report on a GK-12 Program: Engineering as a Contextual Vehicle for Math and Science Education

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Engineering as the STEM Glue

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.94.1 - 22.94.11



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Paper Authors


Ben Pelleg Drexel University

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Mr. Ben Pelleg is a third year Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering at Drexel University. He earned a B.S. degree in applied and engineering physics from Cornell University in 2008. Ben is a NSF GK-12 fellow and teaches science, math, and engineering to students in the School District of Philadelphia. Ben’s current research includes the study of holographic polymer dispersed liquid crystals and other polymer/liquid crystal devices.

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David Urias Drexel University

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Dr. David Urias has an extensive educational background in international education, policy studies, and program evaluation. He is the Founding Director of both the Masters Program in Global & International Education at Drexel University’s School of Education and the Evaluation & Research Network. He earned his doctorate in international educational policy studies and program evaluation from the Curry School of Education, University of Virginia. In addition to his educational background and interest in international education, over the last 22 years, he has traveled, lived, and worked in such countries as Peru, Israel, Greece, and England to name a few. With respect to outcomes assessment, Dr. Urias has experience logically linking evaluation questions to appropriate sources of information, instruments, and methods of analysis as evidenced by his work evaluating National Science Foundation funded programs such as: four REU sites, one GAANN, one PIRE, and one GK-12.

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Adam K. Fontecchio Drexel University

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Dr. Adam Fontecchio is an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs in the College of Engineering, Co- Director of the A. J. Drexel Nanotechnology Institute, an affiliated member of the Materials Engineering Department, and a member of the Center for Educational Research. He is the recipient of a NASA New Investigator Award, the Drexel Graduate Student Association Outstanding Mentor Award, the Drexel University ECE Outstanding Research Achievement Award and the International Liquid Crystal Society Multimedia Prize. In 2003, he received a NASA/ASEE Summer Faculty Fellowship to research NEMS/MEMS adaptive optics in the Microdevices Laboratory at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Dr. Fontecchio received his Ph.D. in Physics from Brown University in 2002. He has authored more than 75 peer-reviewed publications.

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Eli Fromm, Ph.D. Drexel University

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Eli Fromm is the Roy A. Brothers University Professor, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Director of the Center for Educational Research in the College of Engineering of Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA. After his BSEE he was employment with General Electric and E.I. DuPont. He subsequently pursued graduate studies and then joined Drexel University in 1967. He has served in faculty and academic leadership positions including Vice President for Educational Research, Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Studies, interim Dean of the College of Engineering, and interim Head of the Department of Biosciences. He currently is Assoc. Dean of the College of Engineering and Director of the Freshman Engineering Experience. He has conducted extensive bioengineering research and in more recent years has turned his attention to engineering education research. He has been the P.I. of Drexel's E4 curricular model, the Gateway Engineering Education Coalition, and GK-12 project to which this paper relates. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the inaugural recipient of the Bernard Gordon Prize from the National Academy of Engineering as well as many other honors.

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A report on a GK-12 program: engineering as a contextual vehicle for math and science educationThis work reports on the cumulative results of a four year NSF GK-12 program that partneredour university with a local, urban, school district. The premise of the program was to place GK-12 fellows in school classrooms to benefit the fellows, teachers, and students. The specific goalsof the program were to improve the teaching, communication, and team skills of the GK-12fellows, provide mentoring experiences for the GK-12 fellows, provide content enhancement forthe GK-12 teachers, enrich and excite the science and math learning experiences of middle gradestudents, and to further strengthen the relationship between our university and the school district.The strategy for accomplishing this was the development of a unique presentation model thatuses engineering in context and examples of engineering in the world around us as a vehiclethrough which to integrate and enrich the teaching of science and mathematics while embeddingfeedback and interactive processes by which the fellows, teachers, and students communicateshared experiences. The school students and GK-12 teachers gain an appreciation for the scienceand mathematics concepts in an applied, real world context. Concurrently the GK-12 fellowsbecome knowledgeable in pedagogy through direct application of their technical/scientificexpertise in the context of the classroom setting, interaction with the teacher, mentoring students,and building their personal teaching and confidence. Thus the GK-12 fellow, teacher, and middlegrade students all “learn-by-doing”.Throughout its four year existence, our GK-12 program has impacted a significant number offellows, teachers and students. In total twenty one fellows partnered with twenty teachers fromten different public schools to impact over 1500 students. The student population was composedof primarily minority and low-income students. The fellows have developed more than 250engineering based modules that are available for public access. To assess the effectiveness of theprogram, the fellows, teachers, and students were monitored throughout the school year. Thefellows completed multiple surveys and wrote weekly reflection journals. The students weresurveyed at the beginning and end of the year, while the teachers completed mid and end of yearsurveys. Evaluations of all three populations showed positive outcomes. The fellows becamemore comfortable assuming the teacher role in the classroom and gained experiencecommunicating their research to a non-specialized audience; the teachers reported their partnerfellow as being a valuable asset to the classroom in a number of ways; the students showed anincrease in their knowledge of engineering, as well as their math and science skills.In essence, our GK-12 program has been a true asset to the participating schools, classrooms,teachers, and fellows. It enriched education, utilized higher order thinking processes,incorporated technology and investigation, and created an environment where students worktogether explore complex science concepts in a fun and exciting way. The teachers benefited byhaving a true expert in the classroom that implemented engineering modules and exposed thestudents to experiences they would not otherwise receive. Finally, the fellows developed asteachers, mentors, communicators and built partnerships with public school teachers andstudents.

Pelleg, B., & Urias, D., & Fontecchio, A. K., & Ph.D., E. F. (2011, June), A Report on a GK-12 Program: Engineering as a Contextual Vehicle for Math and Science Education Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17376

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