Ohio Northern University, in collaboration with Ohio State University and Olathe (Kansas) Northwest High School (ONWHS), has received a substantial grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to implement engineering design activities into high school science classrooms. The three-year grant, which began Aug. 1, is for $450,000. The funding source is the Discovery Research in PreK-12 program (DRK12) of the NSF Directorate for Education and Human Resources.

The project, “Promoting Engineering Problem Framing Skill Development in High School Science and Engineering Courses,” was designed and submitted by ONU faculty members Blake Hylton and Todd France, together with Patrick Herak of Ohio State and Bruce Wellman of ONWHS. Hylton is a mechanical engineering faculty member, France and Herak are engineering education faculty members, and Wellman is a high school chemistry and engineering educator.

The project has the potential to provide a model of how to support busy and resource-constrained STEM teachers and create broader student interest in STEM careers. The goal is to develop curricular activities and assessment guidance for K-12 science and engineering educators who seek to incorporate engineering design content into their biology, chemistry and physics classes. Wellman also is a member of the NSF STEM Education Advisory Panel.

The project’s main objectives are to design, field-test and evaluate the impact of 12 Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned, engineering problem-framing design activities on students enrolled in grades nine-12 science courses and to develop strategies for high school science teachers in these areas.

“This work is important because students’ limited exposure to engineering activities can negatively impact their decisions to enroll in STEM courses and to pursue engineering careers,” said Hylton, assistant professor of engineering at ONU. “Further, many states are adopting or considering adopting the NGSS, a set of classroom standards that integrate engineering content into traditional science disciplines. This effort should have a positive impact on increasing students interested in pursuing an engineering degree.”

Wellman said, “This truly collaborative project to co-develop engineering instructional materials is a great example for how all instructional materials should be developed. We hope that this project will both create great learning tools for high school science students throughout the country and serve as a model for school districts to develop new partnerships with colleges and universities that leverage teacher-leaders’ expertise by creating innovative hybrid leadership roles.”