Project Profile

Collaborative Research: American Innovations in an Age of Discovery: Teaching Science and Engineering through 3D-printed Historical Reconstructions


Advanced manufacturing technologies, such as 3D printing, are transforming design and several fields of engineering. This innovative project will use 3D technology to help students learn about science and engineering through the history of inventions in the United States. As part of science and engineering classes, middle and high-school students will use 3D printing technology to recreate historically significant inventions, using digitized versions from the Smithsonian Institution (e.g., the Wright brothers' airplane - The project will create modules that will connect these significant inventions from the past with contemporary technologies, science, and engineering. Student teamwork will help participants understand the collaborative process of invention. The project will develop supporting materials for middle school science and engineering teachers. 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).

The module development will address calls in recent national reports and standards for the integration of engineering in science teaching and learning. The research questions and data collection/analysis will examine how the modules impact student knowledge of the concepts and if teachers can successfully implement them in classrooms. Data to be collected include students' work on the modules, interviews and focus groups with students, interviews with teachers, and classroom observation. Using comparison classrooms, the study will also use pre-tests and post-tests of students' content knowledge to understand the impact of the modules in the treatment classrooms on students' knowledge of science and engineering. The goal will be to document the impact of the modules on students' learning in science and engineering courses and to understand how historical inventions can be used to engage students in how scientific and engineering innovation happen. The implementation will include school districts with diverse populations of students in two states, providing a range of test sites for the materials.


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Award Number
1513018, 1512866, 1511155, 1510289, & 1508319
Project Duration
2015 - 2019
University of Virginia Main Campus, Charlottesville, VA
James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA
Smithsonian Institution, Arlington, VA
University of North Texas, Denton, TX
Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Project Work State
District of Columbia
Target Gradespan(s)
Middle school (6-8)
Project Setting(s)
Formal Education
Geographic Location(s)
Project Status
Additional Disciplines
Engineering - design
Additional Target Participants