The revolution

IUSE/Professional Formation of Engineers: REvolutionizing engineering and computer science Departments (RED)

In FY 2016, the Directorates for Engineering (ENG), Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) and Education and Human Resources (EHR) are continuing a program aligned with the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) framework: REvolutionizing engineering and computer science Departments (herein referred to as RED). This funding opportunity enables engineering and computer science departments to lead the nation by successfully achieving significant sustainable changes necessary to overcome longstanding issues in their undergraduate programs and educate inclusive communities of engineering and computer science students prepared to solve 21st-century challenges.

In 2014, ENG launched an initiative, the Professional Formation of Engineers (PFE), to create and support an innovative and inclusive engineering profession for the 21st century. At the same time, in 2014, NSF launched the agency-wide Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) framework, which is a comprehensive effort to accelerate improvements in the quality and effectiveness of undergraduate education in all STEM fields. The RED program was first offered in FY 2015 as a PFE initiative aligned with the IUSE framework. Additional programs have been created within the IUSE framework across NSF, such as the IUSE: EHR program within EHR.

Even as demographic and regional socio-economic factors affect engineering and computer science departments in unique ways, there are certain tenets of sustainable change that are common across institutions. For instance, the development and engagement of the entire faculty within a department are paramount to the process, and they must be incentivized. Departmental cultural barriers to inclusion of students and faculty from different backgrounds must be identified and addressed. Finally, coherent technical and professional threads must be developed and woven across the four years, especially (1) in the core technical courses of the middle two years, (2) in internship opportunities in the private and public sectors, and (3) in research opportunities with faculty. These and other threads aim to ensure that students develop deep knowledge in their discipline more effectively and meaningfully, while at the same time building their capacities for 21st-century and “T-shaped” professional skills, including design, leadership, communication, understanding historical and contemporary social contexts, lifelong learning, professional ethical responsibility, creativity, entrepreneurship, and multidisciplinary teamwork. It is expected that, over time, the awardees of this program will create knowledge concerning sustainable change in engineering and computer science education that can be scaled and adopted nationally across a wide variety of academic institutions. The research on departmental change that results from these projects should inform change more broadly across the STEM disciplines.

IUSE/PFE-RED: FACETS: Formation of Accomplished Chemical Engineers for Transforming Society

NSF Org: Engineering Education and Centers (EEC)

NSF Award Number: 1623105

Addressing the grand challenges of the 21st century requires engineers who are critical thinkers, problem solvers, and able to understand the societal contexts in which they are working. Educating students in these areas requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses motivation and identity as a means to ensure a diverse workforce. The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) at the University of New Mexico plans to revolutionize undergraduate education by launching FACETS: Formation of Accomplished Chemical Engineers for Transforming Society. FACETS will revolutionize CBE by (1) introducing "CIRE" design challenges in the core curriculum that are Community-, Industry-, Research-, and/or Entrepreneurship-based; (2) conducting professional development institutes that will train and mentor faculty and graduate students; workshops will be led by experts from industry and national laboratories, from the learning sciences, from engineering education and multicultural studies, for example the directors of UNM Native American Studies and Chicano/a Studies, and (3) create a digital badging system will help students take ownership of their competencies and develop engineering identities and enable faculty to monitor and assess student outcomes and to engage in research on their teaching. The CIRE design challenges, digital badging system and implementation plan will be transferrable to many intermediate to large institutions through the use of a modular approach. Local industry and community partners will participate in presenting the design challenges and encourage entrepreneurial thinking. The use of community engagement through design challenges will engage students in developing their sociotechnical awareness and attract diverse, native and rural populations into engineering.

The field of chemical engineering has evolved over the past century - originating in the petrochemical industries - but now includes electronic materials processing, pharmaceutical production and product design, such as nanoparticles, tissue engineering, nano-medicine, etc. However, the chemical engineering undergraduate core curriculum has not fully reflected this transformation. In order to reposition chemical engineering to educate students prepared for future challenges, the project team will create and study design challenges and digital badges. The project is underlain by a theory of change based on research on engineering education, guided by a broad research question: How can a digital badging system paired with design challenges support students to develop professional identity and an understanding of engineering as an innovative field? The project will result in new understanding of how to engage faculty to support diverse students to be successful in engineering. It will lead to sustained change in the department, including: the ability to prepare diverse engineers ready to solve the challenges of tomorrow; partnerships with industry, national labs and communities; and a model for how to revolutionize undergraduate education.