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CAREER: Engineering Design Across Navajo Culture, Community, and Society

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.329.1 - 26.329.19



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Paper Authors


Shawn S. Jordan Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus Orcid 16x16

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SHAWN JORDAN, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. He teaches context-centered electrical engineering and embedded systems design courses, and studies the use of context in both K-12 and undergraduate engineering design education. He received his Ph.D. in Engineering Education (2010) and M.S./B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Purdue University. Dr. Jordan is PI on several NSF-funded projects related to design, including an NSF Early CAREER Award entitled “CAREER: Engineering Design Across Navajo Culture, Community, and Society” and “Might Young Makers be the Engineers of the Future?” He has also been part of the teaching team for NSF’s Innovation Corps for Learning, and was named one of ASEE PRISM’s “20 Faculty Under 40” in 2014.

Dr. Jordan also founded and led teams to two collegiate National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest championships, and has co-developed the STEAM Labs™ program to engage middle and high school students in learning science, technology, engineering, arts, and math concepts through designing and building chain reaction machines. He has appeared on many TV shows (including Modern Marvels on The History Channel and Jimmy Kimmel Live on ABC) and a movie with his Rube Goldberg machines, and worked as a behind-the scenes engineer for season 3 of the PBS engineering design reality TV show, Design Squad. He also held the Guinness World Record for the largest number of steps – 125 – in a working Rube Goldberg machine.

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CAREER: Engineering Design Across Navajo Culture, Community, and Society    With the complex nature of real-world problems, our country needs diverse perspectives inSTEM in order to drive innovation and create culturally-relevant solutions. Advanced STEMeducation could play an important role in providing career pathways for Native Americanstudents and strengthening community.The mission of this research is to develop a theory of culturally-contextualized engineeringdesign curricula and assessment tools for Navajo middle school students, grounded in a study ofhow Navajo students and Navajo professionals experience, understand, and apply engineeringdesign in the context of their culture, community, and society. This foundation will supportfuture educational innovations and illuminate pathways for Navajo students to pursue highereducation and careers in STEM. Through integrated research and education methods, this studyseeks to: (1) qualitatively study to explore the ways in which Navajo students and Navajoprofessionals experience and understand engineering design in the context of their culture,community, and society; (2) conduct a design-based research study on the development ofculturally-contextualized theory of learning and curriculum modules that will be piloted inseveral schools in the Navajo Nation; and (3) create and pilot tools to evaluate Navajo students’experience of engineering design in the context of Navajo culture.Under the theoretical frameworks of social constructivism (Vygotsky, 1978) and culturallyrelevant pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 1995), this study uses a phenomenographic approach(Marton, 1981) to explore the ways that Navajo students and Navajo professionals experienceengineering design in the context of their culture, and a design-based research approach (Brown,1992; Collins, 1992) to apply the results from the phenomenography in the iterative developmentof culturally-contextualized engineering curricula. The primary research questions are: (RQ1)What are the ways in which Navajo students and Navajo professionals experience, understand,and apply engineering design in the context of their culture, community, and society? and (RQ2)How do culturally-contextualized curricula affect the experience and understanding ofengineering design, sense of cultural identity, and cultural attitudes of Navajo students?For (RQ1), 32 Navajo middle and high school students, Navajo undergraduate students, Navajoprofessors, and Navajo professionals with exposure to engineering design sampled purposefullyand stratified by where they grew up and work (e.g., on/off reservation). Transcripts from semi-structured interviews are being analyzed through a phenomenographic lens, to result in anoutcome space describing how participants experience engineering design in Navajo culture. For(RQ2), the results from (RQ1) above will inform a 250-participant design-based research studyto develop a theory of culturally-contextualized curricula to advance student learning anddevelop, pilot, and assess culturally-contextualized curriculum modules for 6th, 7th, and 8thgraders. The results of this study will provide critical insight into how to engage students fromunderrepresented groups in engineering design in a way complementary to their cultures. It willalso illuminate pathways for students from underrepresented groups to pursue higher educationand careers in STEM fields.

Jordan, S. S. (2015, June), CAREER: Engineering Design Across Navajo Culture, Community, and Society Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23668

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