July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Pre-College Engineering Education
Biologically inspired design has become increasingly common in graduate and undergraduate engineering programs, consistent with an expanding emphasis by professional engineering societies on cross-disciplinary critical thinking skills and adaptive and sustainable design. However, bio-inspired engineering is less common in K-12 education. In 2019, the NSF funded a K-12 project entitled Biologically Inspired Design for Engineering Education (BIRDEE), to create socially relevant, accessible, and highly contextualized high school engineering curricula focusing on bio-inspired design. Studies have shown that women and underrepresented minorities are drawn to curricula, courses, and instructional strategies that are integrated, emphasize systems thinking, and facilitate connection building across courses or disciplines. The BIRDEE project also seeks to interest high school girls in engineering by providing curricula that incorporate humanistic, bio-inspired engineering with a focus on sustainable and authentic design contexts. BIRDEE curricula integrate bio-inspired design into the engineering design process by leveraging design tools that facilitate the application of biological concepts to design challenges. This provides a conceptual framework enabling students to systematically define a design problem, resulting in better, more well-rounded problem specifications.
The professional development (PD) for the participating teachers include six-week-long summer internships in university research laboratories focused on biology and bio-inspired design. The goal of these internships is to improve engineering teachers’ knowledge of bio-inspired design by partnering with cutting-edge engineers and scientists to study animal features and behaviors and their applications to engineering design. However, due to COVID-19 and research lab closures in the summer of 2020, the research team had to transfer the summer PD experience to an online setting. An asynchronous, quasi-facilitated online course was developed and delivered to teachers over six weeks. In this paper, we will discuss online pedagogical approaches to experiential learning, teaching bio-inspired design concepts, and the integration of these approaches in the engineering design process. Central to the online PD design and function of each course was the use of inquiry, experiential and highly-collaborative learning strategies.
Preliminary results show that teachers appreciated the aspects of the summer PD that included exploration, such as during the “Found Object” activity, and the process of building a prototype. These activities represented experiential learning opportunities where teachers were able to learn by doing. It was noted throughout the focus group discussions that such opportunities were appreciated by participating teachers. Teachers indicated that the experiential learning components of the PD allowed them to do something outside of their comfort zone, inspired them to do research that they would not have done outside of this experience, and allowed them to “be in the student's seat and get hands-on application”. By participating in these experiential learning opportunities, teachers were also able to better understand how the BIRDEE curriculum may impact students’ learning in their classrooms.
Alemdar, M., & Ehsan, H., & Cappelli, C., & Kim, E., & Moore, R., & Helms, M., & Rosen, J. H., & Weissburg, M. (2021, July), Biologically Inspired Design For Engineering Education: Online Teacher Professional Learning (Evaluation) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36749
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