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Board 128: Neuroscience and Engineering: Interdisciplinary STEAM Curriculum at a Girls' Middle School (Work in Progress)

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Phelana Pang Seattle Girls' School

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Phelana Pang is a Science and STEAM teacher at Seattle Girls' School. She received her B.S. in Biology from Duke University and her M.A. in Science Education from UC Berkeley. Phelana has taught 6th-12th grade life science, chemistry, and earth science at public and private schools in California, Texas, Saudi Arabia, and Washington state. She participated in the NSF funded Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program at the University of Washington's Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE) for two summers, engaging in engineering research and writing pre-college engineering curricula.

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To support students’ meaningful learning, the Framework for K-12 Science Education emphasizes the importance of incorporating engineering practices in science instruction [1]. Additionally, the underrepresentation of females in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics has been well documented [2]. Including an art component with the integration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEAM) engages students in authentic problem-solving and creative design experiences [3]. In partnership with a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program at the University of Washington’s Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, the author, a middle school science teacher, designed and implemented a two-week project-based neural engineering STEAM unit. The interdisciplinary curriculum examined the real-world problem of sensory impairment and engaged 5th-8th grade students at an all girls middle school in engineering design. Students planned, built, and tested a model of a device that substituted one sense with another. Students learned the basics of neuroscience, circuitry, and programming Arduinos. Additionally, students engaged in creative processes, considered the aesthetics involved in their device design, and participated in discussions about ethics in neural engineering. The unit was written to provide multiple access points for student engagement through the inclusion of a range of high interest topics: neuroscience, circuitry, coding, engineering design, art, and ethics.

This project evaluated the effectiveness of the interdisciplinary STEAM curriculum on the attitudes and skills of middle school girls. The curriculum was designed, implemented, revised, and re-implemented over a period of two academic years. The author created and analyzed the results of pre- and post- surveys which measured student attitudes about engineering, ethics, and career opportunities in STEAM. Additionally, skills in coding, building circuits, problem-solving, communication and peer review were evaluated through teacher observation at multiple points throughout the unit. Rubrics were developed for both student self-assessment and teacher evaluation of these skills. Preliminary assessments from the first pilot year indicated the students developed overall confidence in using the Arduino to create a model of a sensory substitution device, and an ability to examine the ethical considerations of engineering a device for an end-user with sensory impairment. Following the second piloting, the author will further revise and improve the curriculum and make the unit available for broad dissemination to pre-college science and engineering educators through websites and conference presentations. The goal of the dissemination is to help K-12 teachers incorporate neural engineering design into their science instruction to support students’ meaningful learning; this will reach and engage more students in designing creative solutions to real-world challenges.


[1] National Research Council. (2012). A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

[2] Hill, C., Corbett, C., St. Rose, A., & American Association of University Women. (2010). Why So Few?: Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Washington, D.C: AAUW.

[3] Miller, J. & Knezek, G. (2013). STEAM for Student Engagement. In R. McBride & M. Searson (Eds.), Proceedings of SITE 2013--Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (pp. 3288-3298). New Orleans, Louisiana: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Pang, P. (2018, June), Board 128: Neuroscience and Engineering: Interdisciplinary STEAM Curriculum at a Girls' Middle School (Work in Progress) Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29914

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