New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
This research paper describes the results of a teaching approach that utilizes educational modules focusing on nanotechnology and the NAE Grand Challenges. The purpose of these modules is to address two issues in undergraduate engineering education, retention and nanotechnology education. Over the last decade, there have been a plethora of initiatives focused on formal, and informal, K-12 nanotechnology education. A growing amount of high quality content is available through multiple online resources including NISEnet.org. However, there is often a large gap in nanotechnology education opportunities between high school and senior/graduate level electives. Engineering freshman, a growing number of whom have developed a high degree of interest in the potential of nanotechnology, must wait until graduate school or, if they are lucky, senior level elective classes to obtain any further nanotechnology education. A few schools offer undergraduate nanotechnology degrees or specializations, but at many schools (including our own) much of the emphasis on nanotechnology has been in the form of academic research and electives for seniors and graduate students. In fact, a visual representation of courses available on NanoHub.org shows the vast majority are targeted at the junior level or above. Research indicates that a change in public perception of the role of engineers in society is required to facilitate the recruitment and retention of students to the profession. To that end NAE developed Engineering Messages to help “rebrand” the engineering profession. In 2008, the NAE launched the Engineering Grand Challenges website including fourteen grand challenges that highlight key challenges facing modern society. These Grand Challenges reinforce the engineering messages of how engineers and their creative problem solving skills are essential to improving our world and shaping the future. Despite efforts to recruit more students to the engineering profession many school see a dramatic attrition rate between freshman and sophomore years. Connecting students’ interests in nanotechnology to their first-year engineering courses and the Grand Challenges was therefore seen as an important strategy to promote nanoliteracy and engineering retention. Each module includes: 1) an introduction to the Grand Challenges in general (may not be included if multiple modules used in semester), 2) a discussion of the ‘current state of the art’ for a specific Grand Challenge and needs for addressing the challenge, 3) a knowledge-centered introduction to potential nanotechnology enabled solutions, and 4) hand-on activities for use with the three previous sections. The initial modules focusing on the Grand Challenges “Make Solar Energy Economical” and “Reverse Engineer the Brain” have been developed and used in summer camps for entering freshman and as part of the Chemical Engineering Freshman Engineering course. Initial assessment of effects of the module on nanotechnology knowledge gains, broader engineering and Grand Challenges knowledge gains, and increased commitment to and engagement in engineering will be discussed.
Davis, E. W., & Lakin, J. M., & Davis, V. A., & Raju, P. (2016, June), Nanotechnology Solutions to Engineering Grand Challenges Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25769
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