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The Impact of Project-based Learning on Engagement as a Function of Student Demographics

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Works in Progress: Learning and Engagement

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Alyssa Bellingham Drexel University

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Alyssa Bellingham is currently an electrical engineering Ph.D candidate at Drexel University. She recieved her B.S/M.S degrees in electrical engineering from Drexel University in 2012 and has a degree in materials engineering from Politecnico di Milano. As a National Science Foundation Stem GK-12 Program fellow, she has been teaching a robotics course at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.

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John Kamal Science Leadership Academy

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John teaches young people engineering and science at Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. John came to SLA through the Philadelphia Teaching Residency Program as a Noyce Scholar.

Prior to teaching, John spent a few decades as an entrepreneur, co-founding WAM Systems, a global provider of supply chain planning and optimization solutions to large manufacturers. Before WAM, he designed spacecraft at GE for many years. John holds engineering degrees from Penn State and Villanova.

When not teaching science and engineering, John can be found playing jazz clarinet, practicing yoga, or inventing oddities in his workshop.

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Jessica S. Ward Drexel University

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Jessica Ward serves as the Director of Operations for the DragonsTeach program. She previously worked in the College of Engineering at Drexel University for more than 9 years with a focus on recruitment, grant facilitation and STEM program management. During her tenure in the College of Engineering, Jessica successfully coordinated with multiple faculty members in the submission of approximately 600 grant proposals, including co-writing, editing and serving as the Program Manager for 5 awarded STEM education grants totaling more than $12M. She has collaborated with University offices and College faculty and professional staff in the facilitation of recruitment strategies to increase the quality and quantity of undergraduate and graduate enrollment, including supervising the planning and implementation of Open House and other recruitment events. Jessica now manages the day-to-day operations of the DragonsTeach program, including supporting the development of programs of study, student recruitment, fundraising and grant-writing, hiring and supervising staff and student workers as well as coordinating program evaluation.

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Adam K. Fontecchio Drexel University

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Dr. Adam Fontecchio is an Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Vice-Dean of the Graduate College, and Director of the Center for the Advancement of STEM Teaching and Learning Excellence (CASTLE). He is the recipient of a NASA New Investigator Award, the Drexel Graduate Student Association Outstanding Mentor Award, the Drexel University ECE Outstanding Research Achievement Award and the International Liquid Crystal Society Multimedia Prize. In 2003, he received a NASA/ASEE Summer Faculty Fellowship to research NEMS/MEMS adaptive optics in the Microdevices Laboratory at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Dr. Fontecchio received his Ph.D. in Physics from Brown University in 2002. He has authored more than 90 peer-reviewed publications.

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This work in progress seeks to determine the role of demographics in student inclination to choose science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) electives in high school. A Ph.D. student fellow and teacher will teach robotics and engineering principles through open-ended projects that address several of the NEA grand challenges. These projects are structured using constructivist pedagogy that ties into five core values: inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation, and reflection. We will introduce this study into an ethnically diverse robotics class comprised of sophomore, junior, and senior students. The predisposition of students to study topics relating to robotics will be assessed at the start of the study and then after each project has been completed. Initially, predisposition will be determined by which students selected this class as their first choice elective option and which were placed into the class based on scheduling. As the year continues, pre- and post-project surveys will be used to evaluate student interest and attitude towards robotics and engineering. This information will be broken down by demographics including, gender, age, and ethnicity to see if specific projects increase interest among certain groups. Although the sample size will be small, the goal is to establish a methodology and a preliminary outcome set that could be used in further research with larger populations.

Bellingham, A., & Kamal, J., & Ward, J. S., & Fontecchio, A. K. (2016, June), The Impact of Project-based Learning on Engagement as a Function of Student Demographics Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26177

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