June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering
23.604.1 - 23.604.18
First-Year Engineering Students’ Learning of Nanotechnology through an Open-Ended ProjectFirst-year students know very little about nanotechnology1-3. The general public is ill-informedabout nanotechnogy4. This means that high school students are not receiving accurateinformation about a field that is changing many aspects of our world5-6 and offers many newlearning and discovery opportunities7. A partnership between faculty teaching a required First-Year Engineering (FYE) course at a Midwestern university and one of the university’s fundednanotechnology projects resulted in a FYE design project targeted at addressing multiple courselearning objectives and improving students’ awareness and knowledge of nanotechnology. Forthis project, student teams were to create an interactive learning environment (using MATLAB8)to teach high school students about nanotechnology through relevant state-standards for science.This research team is interested in (1) understanding what the FYE teams learned aboutnanotechnology through their work on this project and (2) identifying project improvementsneeded to increase students’ awareness and knowledge of nanotechnology. The followingresearch questions guide this work: (1) How do students define nanotechnology through theirproject work?, (2) What, if any, examples of nanotechnology do students discuss in theirproject?, and (3) What science concepts do they relate to nanotechnology?.In Spring 2012, approximately 240 students (~60 teams of four) in a required FYE coursecompleted the nanotechnology project. The milestones for this project entailed: (1) brainstormingand evaluation of ideas, (2) storyboarding the selected idea, (3) graphical user-interface layoutand flowcharting of functions needed, (4) beta version 1 development, (5) beta version 2demonstration to project partner representatives, and (6) final demonstration and executivesummary submission. To learn about nanotechnology, FYE students were given access to thepartners’ interactive online data and research sharing environment with 64,659 interactive users.The student teams’ executive summaries are the investigated data for this initial study. In thesesummaries, teams were to overview their solution, indicate changes made over the course of theirsolution development to better address the partner’s needs, and describe their success andshortcomings in meeting the given criteria. All 60 teams’ executive summaries were qualitativelyanalyzed through open coding to elicit themes concerning nanotechnology. These themes wherethen analyzed for patterns.Twenty percent of the teams gave a definition of nanotechnology; half of the teams mentioned ananoscale measurement. Half of the teams mentioned at least one type of nanotechnology; feweractually discussed these in any depth. Half of the teams were able to connect nanotechnology toa science state-standard; the majority of the teams focused on physics and chemistry concepts. Afew teams openly admitted there project did not heavily incorporate nanotechnology.It is evident that more scaffolding will be necessary to enable students to successfully learn aboutnanotechnology from the partner’s vast resources. An examination of the projects themselvesmay reveal that a greater number of teams incorporated nanotechnology more successfully thanwere able to convey this through their summaries. Results from this study begin to lay thefoundation for making recommendations for increasing students’ awareness and knowledge ofnanotechnology through self-discovery via open-ended project work.Bibliography1. Author, et al. (2007). Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education.2. Author, et al. (2008). Journal of Science Education and Technology.3. Lu, K. (2009). A study of engineering freshmen regarding nanotechnology understanding. Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research, 10(1), 7-16. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/222790119?accountid=13360.4. Castellini, O. M., G. K. Walejko, G. K., C. E. Holladay, C. E., Theim, T. J., Zenner, G. M., & Crone, W. C. (2007). Nanotechnology and the public: Effectively communicating nanoscale science and engineering concepts. Journal of Nanoparticle Research, 9(2), 183-189.5. Foster, L. E. (2005). Nanotechnology: Science, Innovation, and Opportunity, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.6. Lux research; nanotechnology-based products starting to have big consumer impact. (2004). Biotech Week, 469- 469. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/205591298?accountid=13360.7. Mahbub Uddin,M., & Chowdhury, A. R. (2001). Integration of nanotechnology into the undergraduate engineering curriculum. Proceedings of the International Conference on Engineering Education, Oslo, Norway.8. Mathworks. (1994-2012). Retrieved from: http://www.mathworks.com.
Rodgers, K. J., & Diefes-Dux, H. A., & Madhavan, K., & Oakes, W. C. (2013, June), First-Year Engineering Students’ Learning of Nanotechnology through an Open-Ended Project Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. https://peer.asee.org/19618
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