Collaborative Research: Connected STEM - Promoting STEM Education through Connected Devices and Building Automation
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This project will advance efforts of the innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase students'' motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by producing empirical findings and/or research tools that contribute to knowledge about which models and interventions with K-12 students and teachers are most likely to increase capacity in the STEM and STEM cognate intensive workforce of the future. The project will answer questions about: 1) the effectiveness of experiences to promote competency, motivation, and persistence for productive participation in STEM; 2) how to engage teachers to use and integrate technology related to STEM careers; and 3) the role industry plays in motivating students to pursue STEM careers and preparing teachers to support STEM career awareness. The project will promote junior high and high school students'' interest, skills, knowledge, and career aspirations in engineering through authentic engineering design activities related to building automation. The approach is to use connected devices (known as the internet of things) and additive manufacturing (3D printing) as the basic technological learning tools to be used by the junior high and high school students. The project will acquaint students to these new technologies in which the workforce of the future will need to be comfortable working with these connected devices, how new manufacturing processes work, and understanding the role these technologies can play in the modern enterprise. The project will use the combination of teacher training, community outreach, industry support, and community college partnership to promote STEM careers among junior high school and high school students. The project plan consists of three main activities: 1) the incorporation of authentic design activities related to building automation and supported by industry professionals into junior high and high school classes; 2) the creation of summer programs for junior high school students to create connected devices; and 3) the creation of a dual credit course to be offered in high schools for community college credit using examples from building automation. The project will systematically evaluate the effect of authentic experiential learning activities related to engineering design on students'' interests, skills, knowledge, and career aspirations. The work will also examine the effectiveness of a teacher professional development program in preparing teachers to implement authentic engineering design activities. Both the university faculty and industry representatives as collaborators, the project will examine the role these other professionals play in helping teachers overcome any doubts or apprehension they have in engineering design instruction. The project will allow a diverse group of students to learn about new technologies and STEM careers through authentic experiential learning activities and the participation of industry will allow students to better understand what engineers do and why math and science are critical to these technical professions. The project partners with the Houston Independent School District (HISD), the largest school district in Texas and the 7th largest in the United States, and the proposed work will have significant impact with HISD and their 62% Hispanic and 25% African-American student population, allowing an underserved populations to learn about potential careers in STEM.