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Fundamental: A Teacher Professional Development Program in Engineering Research with Entrepreneurship and Industry Experiences

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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

Professional Development for Teachers

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Sai Prasanth Krishnamoorthy New York University

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Sai Prasanth Krishnamoorthy received his BSEE from Amrita University and M.S in Mechatronics from NYU Tandon School of Engineering, Brooklyn, NY. He is currently a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, serving as a research assistant under NSF-funded RET Site project. He conducts research in Mechatronics, Robotics and Controls Laboratory at NYU and his research interests include automation, rapid prototyping and computer vision. He is a member of IEEE Robotics and Automation Society.

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Sheila Borges Rajguru New York University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Sheila Borges Rajguru is the Assistant Director at the Center for K12 STEM Education, NYU Tandon School of Engineering. As the Center's STEM Educator and Researcher she works with engineers and faculty to provide professional development to K12 science and math teachers. In addition, she conducts studies that looks at embedding robotics and technology in K12 schools. As a former Adjunct Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and biomedical scientist in Immunology, Dr. Borges balances the world of what STEM professionals do and brings that to STEM education in order to provide PD that aligns to The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Since 2008 she has provided teacher PD to science teachers in the tri-state area, including international visiting teachers and scholars. Dr. Borges’ research interests include: building STEM professional-teacher relationships, diversity and equity, and enhancing urban science teaching and learning.

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Vikram Kapila New York University Orcid 16x16

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Vikram Kapila is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at NYU Tandon School of Engineering (NYU Tandon), where he directs a Mechatronics, Controls, and Robotics Laboratory, a Research Experience for Teachers Site in Mechatronics and Entrepreneurship, a DR K-12 research project, and an ITEST research project, all funded by NSF. He has held visiting positions with the Air Force Research Laboratories in Dayton, OH. His research interests include K-12 STEM education, mechatronics, robotics, and control system technology. Under a Research Experience for Teachers Site, a DR K-12 project, and GK-12 Fellows programs, funded by NSF, and the Central Brooklyn STEM Initiative (CBSI), funded by six philanthropic foundations, he has conducted significant K-12 education, training, mentoring, and outreach activities to integrate engineering concepts in science classrooms and labs of dozens of New York City public schools. He received NYU Tandon’s 2002, 2008, 2011, and 2014 Jacobs Excellence in Education Award, 2002 Jacobs Innovation Grant, 2003 Distinguished Teacher Award, and 2012 Inaugural Distinguished Award for Excellence in the category Inspiration through Leadership. Moreover, he is a recipient of 2014-2015 University Distinguished Teaching Award at NYU. His scholarly activities have included 3 edited books, 9 chapters in edited books, 1 book review, 61 journal articles, and 140 conference papers. He has mentored 1 B.S., 26 M.S., and 5 Ph.D. thesis students; 47 undergraduate research students and 11 undergraduate senior design project teams; over 480 K-12 teachers and 115 high school student researchers; and 18 undergraduate GK-12 Fellows and 59 graduate GK-12 Fellows. Moreover, he directs K-12 education, training, mentoring, and outreach programs that enrich the STEM education of over 1,000 students annually.

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Today, technology is pervasive and it is reshaping every aspect of our lived experience. Unfortunately, similar to the vast majority of adults in our society, K-12 students generally lack an understanding of the engineering foundation of the tech-gadgets that have become an integral part of their lifestyles. As technology undergoes accelerating and converging advances, it is paramount that K-12 students receive high quality STEM education so that they have the potential to join the future engineering workforce as contributors to our innovation-driven economy. In recent years, hands-on, problem- and project-based learning has been gathering momentum in K-12 education. Such an approach can benefit students in gaining a greater understanding of subject material and allow teachers to support students of diverse learning styles. Even as hands-on STEM learning aims to incorporate real-world applications, many implementations of learning activities and practices are restricted to the classroom environment and constrained by the scale and resource availability. Teachers and students seldom get opportunities to explore authentic, real-world challenges, primarily due to the lack of teacher knowledge and experiences with modern technologies. These dynamics continue to reinforce students’ misperception that science and math are activities that students do in the classroom, disconnected from the real-world. Thus, to develop a technically literate workforce, educators must not only teach STEM knowledge but also address the students’ question, “Why do I need to know this?” Guided by the internship efficacy research, we posit that through exposure to hands-on engineering and industry experiences, teachers can become better equipped to inform students about how classroom science and math connects to real-world career opportunities.

This paper documents activities and outcomes of a teacher professional development (PD) program, which allows participants to have authentic experiences in engineering, technology, entrepreneurship, and industry. An engineering department at a higher education institute hosted nine teachers for a six-weeklong summer PD, beginning with a two-week hands-on, structured learning followed by a four-week collaborative research and periodic industry interaction experiences. During the structured learning, teachers performed numerous hands-on experimental activities to learn and understand scientific and mathematical foundations of mechatronics and robotics. Moreover, through experiential activities, including visit to a technology startup incubator, they learned fundamental concepts of entrepreneurship, such as business model canvas, minimum viable product, intellectual property, raising funding, etc. In the four-week research phase, to experience the process and challenge of conducting engineering research, the teachers worked in teams to collaborate in and contribute to ongoing projects involving graduate researchers, undergraduate and high-school students, and faculty mentors. Moreover, talks from industry professionals, including a two-day workshop by an industry partner, and visits to startup and factory sites provided ample industry exposure, giving teachers a unique opportunity to develop their innovation, entrepreneurship, and networking skills as well as to gain a real-world understanding of engineering workplace and careers. Teachers created lesson plans to share educational, technical, entrepreneurial, and industry aspects of their summer experience, to provide a foundation for college-level education to their students, and better inform their students about engineering career opportunities. Through follow-up sessions over the academic year, teachers continue to receive additional support for implementing authentic, engineering-based lesson plans.

The participants made significant contributions to research projects in four engineering labs. Illustrative research includes the design of a wirelessly controlled robot to study marine environments, development of an affordable game-based telerehabilitation solution for stroke victims, etc. Based on pre- and post- technical quizzes conducted during the PD, the teacher’s understanding of scientific and mathematical foundations of the concepts improved from 49% to 64%. Final submission of this paper will provide a detailed overview of PD curriculum, activities, research projects, and teacher outcomes (e.g., technical quiz, self-efficacy, and external evaluation).

Krishnamoorthy, S. P., & Borges Rajguru, S., & Kapila, V. (2018, June), Fundamental: A Teacher Professional Development Program in Engineering Research with Entrepreneurship and Industry Experiences Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30547

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