Trans-disciplinary Education in Biology and Engineering Technology
This project focuses on increasing diversity in STEM and increasing student and teacher experiences and competency in the fields of biology and engineering. An integrated education program at the intersection of biology and engineering - the sensory guidance of behavior in biological organisms and autonomous robots - will be developed and studied. The project will consist of: (a) an integrated three-week summer program for rising 12th-grade students and in-service secondary education teachers; (b) a college credit course and workshops for students during their 12th grade school year, and; (c) paid summer internships upon graduation. In these programs, students will engage in hands-on biological investigations to learn how animals sense and respond to their environments. They will then integrate scientific principles with authentic engineering technology to build and program robots based on animals. The robots will be equipped with sensors and behaviors and execute tasks designed by the students. Subsequent internships will serve to further connect student knowledge of integrated biology and engineering with real-world experiences. Creating this program under the framework of animal/robot sensorimotor systems is particularly timely since biology and robotics are producing exciting, emerging technologies and are major growth industries. This project will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase student motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM).
The research seeks to (1) increase awareness and participation of underrepresented groups in STEM fields; (2) increase interest, attitudes, knowledge, and self-efficacy in biology, engineering, and technology fields and occupations, and; (3) develop a model to educate students and to train teachers in concepts that examine the interrelatedness between science and engineering. The project's formative and summative evaluation methods, including surveys, focus groups, and open-ended evaluations of workshop and internship experiences, will be used to study these issues. The research will contribute new insights into integrated STEM curricula and how they support students in developing and sustaining interests in learning and working in scientific fields. The project also engages underrepresented youth in critical thinking, problem-solving, and real-world investigations in biology and engineering that may lead them to pursue STEM careers.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.