CILD co-director Dr. Meredith Kier was awarded a $300,000 Early-concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) grant from the  National Science Foundation (NSF) to design and develop a novel research-practitioner partnership between Newport News Public School teachers, undergraduate engineering fellows from the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), and undergraduate students from William & Mary. The purpose of this project is to study how engineering fellows collaborate, create, and co-facilitate a culturally relevant engineering design task that promotes deeper learning for students in mathematics and science classes. The Early-concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) explores the possibilities and limitations for middle school STEM teacher leaders and undergraduate engineering students to co-plan and co-facilitate culturally-relevant engineering design tasks for students.

William & Mary undergraduate researchers have been an integral part of this project’s implementation and research, led by both co-directors Kier and Johnson. Undergraduates Eleah Ruffin, Patrick Hardner, Alexandra Harris, Samantha Boateng, Aidan Gossett, Emma Arents, and Daniel Villegas immersed themselves in the research process and data, sharpening their research skills, and learning how to work on a research team. Researchers were able to go into classrooms in the community and observe the engineers interact with teachers, undergraduate engineering fellows, and middle school students. Undergraduate researchers took a critical look at the collaboration between teacher and engineer, increasing their observation and analysis skills. Undergraduate researcher and psychology major, Eleah Ruffin, commented: 

“Having the chance to participate in the EAGER Project has been a phenomenal experience. This project has provided me with a hands-on research experience that I haven’t been able to get in my undergraduate career. I had a chance to put some of my skills into practice, as well as obtain some valuable experiences that I’ll be able to take with me into my future career. Having a chance to get a bit of insight into the education system has also solidified my own interest in pursuing a career revolving around education.”

Engineering students from Hampton University’s and Old Dominion University’s NSBE chapters thrived as they used their expertise to assist students in their learning. Teachers were able to recognize the value the engineers brought to the design challenge and co-constructed the experience. They were excited to take the roles of mentor and collaborator in the classroom, sharing their knowledge and allowing their joy for STEM to rub off on the students. Through the use of an online Digital Design Notebook, teachers and students were able to collaborate digitally with the engineers even if they could not be present in the classroom. Jarius, an undergraduate engineer commented, 

“My experience with the EAGER project was amazing! Working with my teacher Mrs. Stein, I actually learned more about design technology. I was happy to spread my knowledge and encourage the students to develop their future.”

Although the partnership might look a bit different as we gear up for the 2020-21 school year, we are excited to continue to strengthen the collaboration between teachers, researchers, and engineering fellows through the use of digital tools and online spaces to create innovative and relevant learning experiences for students.

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