Momentum building on STEM education

The National Science Foundation’s involvement in STEM promotion extends into higher education as well as K-12. NSF’s Innovation through Institutional Integration (I3) program attempts to link institutions’ NSF-funded STEM education projects and to leverage their collective strengths.

In 2008, the six I3 institutions were Georgia Tech, Louisiana State University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Washington, the University of Florida, and Hawaii’s Kapiolani Community College.

I3 promotes increased collaboration within and among institutions and addresses important initiatives, including broader participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM fields and the integration of research and education.

The I3 project at Louisiana State University will help students in their progress toward advanced degrees, create an interdisciplinary curriculum in materials engineering and science, and develop a mentoring ladder system involving faculty members, graduate and undergraduate students, and high school teachers and students.

The University of Colorado at Boulder’s I3 project picks up on recommendations made in the influential report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” to identify three broad goals: transforming STEM education, building a community of education research within science departments, and developing future educators. Toward that end, the university is using I3 funding to build a Center for STEM Education Research and Transformation that integrates STEM education projects across the campus. The center links more than eight traditional departments in three colleges and schools, including the schools of education and engineering and the departments of life sciences, mathematics, and physical sciences. Each department retains its identity, but the center provides an infrastructure for bringing together key ideas and sharing strategies and results.

Through various programs, faculty in Boulder’s School of Arts and Sciences and School of Engineering are partnering with faculty in the School of Education to recruit, prepare, and support the next generation of STEM teachers.

A June workshop at Arizona State University, meanwhile, introduced underrepresented youth to STEM disciplines and career pathways.

Participants in the summer research internship, which is an extension of an NSF-funded research and community collaboration, began their exploration by programming the TI-84 graphing calculator, in conjunction with the TI-robot chassis, to navigate student-constructed obstacles autonomously.

Participants then programmed the TI calculator robot to draw specific geometric patterns on 2-by-2 foot whiteboards. To accomplish this task, besides programming the calculator, they had to design and construct a pen holder using found objects that could be attached to the TI robot.

Wendy Garcia, 14, of Carson Junior High, who wants to be an engineer, was excited about using the calculator.

“I think it is pretty fun,’ Garcia said. “We get to use the calculators as robots and also collect data from the outside world. I didn’t think you could do so much with it.”

Garcia attached a pen to the calculator and manipulated it to draw a circle and a triangle.

“You think it is impossible, but when you put it to work, it makes sense,” she said.

The next phase of the workshop gave students an opportunity to explore graphs of distance versus time and velocity versus time using remote-controlled cars and the Calculator-Based Ranger (CBR) attached to the graphing calculator. Students were charged with manipulating their remote-controlled cars to match distance-versus-time and velocity-versus-time graphs stored in the CBR and displayed on the TI-84 graphing calculator.

“They learn to match the graph through trial and error,” said Jaime Gephart, an eighth and ninth grade science teacher at Powell Junior High. “We teach these concepts in ninth grade, but for a lot of students, they are very hard to understand. It seems hard until they do it.”


National Academy of Engineering

National Center for Women and Information Technology

House Committee on Science and Technology

National Science Foundation