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Prototyping an Interactive Application to Support Collaborative Open-Ended Problem Solving for Precollege Students

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

K-12 and Pre-College Engineering Poster Session

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1005.1 - 23.1005.8



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Paper Authors


Farshid Marbouti Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Farshid Marbouti is a graduate research assistant at INSPIRE, Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning, and a Ph.D. student in Engineering Education at Purdue University. He completed his M.A. in Educational Technology and Learning Design at Simon Fraser University in Canada, and his B.S. and M.S. in Computer Engineering in Iran. Currently he is working on developing applications for pre-college students to support collaborative learning in open-ended problem solving such as Model-Eliciting Activities (MEAs).

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Johannes Strobel Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Dr. Johannes Strobel is the director of INSPIRE, the Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning, and assistant professor of engineering education, learning design, and technology at Purdue University. NSF and several private foundations fund his research. His research and teaching focus on the policy of P-12 engineering, the support for teachers and students’ academic achievements through engineering learning. Dr. Strobel also focuses on the measurement and support for changing ”habits of mind” particularly in regards to sustainability and the use of cyber-infrastructure to sensitively and resourcefully provide access to and support for learning.

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Designing an interactive application to support collaborative open-ended problem solving for precollege studentsThe interest to improve Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) educationin pre-college educational systems has increased among government organizations and highereducation institutes [1]. One way to engage precollege students in developing interest and skills inSTEM education is via Model-Eliciting Activities (MEAs).MEAs were developed by mathematics education researchers [2] to better understand andencourage problem solving. An MEA is an activity that is “thought-revealing and model-eliciting” [3] and have been adapted for other areas such as engineering [4]. MEAs are realisticopen-ended problem solving activities designed to encourage students to collaboratively createand improve mathematical models or algorithm. The instructional frame also provides a mean foreducators to better understand students’ thinking. MEAs involve students in communication,teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving, which are all necessary skills in engineeringeducation [5, 6]. MEA’s are based on six principles: model construction, realistic, self-assessment, construct documentation, construct shareability and reusability, effective prototype[3].The purpose of this paper is to showcase the design and implementation of a prototype of aninteractive application to support MEAs for precollege students. The prototype has been designedand developed for Toothpaste MEA. This MEA asks students to develop a solution to rankdifferent versions of toothpaste based on performance, safety, cost, and taste. The datasets that areprovided with this MEA are designed in a way that there is no one correct answer and studentshave to decide which factors are more important.A number of student team responses were analyzed to design the application in order toaccommodate all possible solution processes that may be employed by students so students don’tfeel restricted into pursuing a specific process to solve the problem. Students collaborativelydevelop the first draft of their solution. Then they enter the solution into the application. Theapplication executes each step and students see the results. Application provides immediatefeedback for each step, which enables students to reflect on their solution and revise it.The prototype was tested with schoolteachers. The preliminary analysis showed morecollaboration on the big screen interactive boards compared to personal computers, laptops ortablets. Design decision, full results and discussion will be provided in the paper. Feedback fromMEA researchers and MEA writing team will also be included.References[1] E. Machi (June 2009). Improving U.S. Competitiveness with K-12 STEM Education and Training, Heritage Special Report, SR-57, Heritage Foundation.[2] Lesh, R. (1998). The development of representational abilities in middle school mathematics: The development of student's representations during model eliciting activities. In I.E. Sigel (Ed.), Representations and student learning. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.[3] Lesh, R., Hoover, M., Hole, B., Kelly, A., & Post, T. (2000). Principles for developing thought-revealing activities for students and teachers. In A. Kelly & R. Lesh (Eds.), Handbook of research design in mathematics and science education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.[4] Zawojewski, J., Diefes-Dux, H. A., & Bowman, K. (2008). Models and modeling in engineering education: designing experiences for all students. Netherlands: Sense.[5] Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology Accreditation Department (ABET) (2011). Criteria for accrediting engineering programs, 2011 - 2012. ABET Inc.: Baltimore, MD, Retrieved from[6] National Academy of Engineering (NAE) (2004). The engineering of 2020: Visions of engineering in the new century. Washington, DC: The National Academic Press.

Marbouti, F., & Strobel, J. (2013, June), Prototyping an Interactive Application to Support Collaborative Open-Ended Problem Solving for Precollege Students Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22390

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