Newswise — The National Science Foundation awarded Olin College Assistant Professor of Systems Design and Engineering Dr. Alexandra Coso Strong a collaborative grant to co-create a series of traveling workshops intended to engage engineering educators from Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and boost participation in STEM education research at HSIs.

Alongside Assistant Professor of Engineering Education Meagan Kendall of the University of Texas El Paso, who is the lead principal investigator, and a group of faculty from University of Miami, led by Assistant Professor in Practice Ines Basalo, the team will design and conduct 2-day workshops at the University of Texas El Paso and the University of Miami in spring of 2018.

During the workshops, participants will leverage various methodologies to better understand the needs, values, cultures and characteristics of HSI institutions. Educators will learn about the concepts of design thinking and intrinsic motivation and use these ideas to create educational prototypes to try out in their own institutions.

“As the developers of these workshops, we have an opportunity to not only share key educational principles we use at Olin, UTEP and the University of Miami, but also to support future educational research and innovation at HSIs,” said Strong. 

Texas and Florida have some of the highest concentrations of HSIs in the country. Hosting workshops in these states will allow educators to experience a STEM-focused workshop without having to afford the high cost of attending a STEM conference out of state.

The awards are among the first of the Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program, and are the result of the NSF’s work with the HSI community and other interested parties trying to find ways to bolster the quality of undergraduate STEM education programs at these institutions.

“For decades, NSF has worked to provide members of communities traditionally underserved in STEM with access to STEM education and opportunities in STEM careers,” said Jim Lewis, acting NSF assistant director for Education and Human Resources. “Through our HSI Program, NSF aims to identify the most critical challenges and important opportunities for learners in undergraduate STEM education at HSIs.”

After the workshops, a set of research questions will be produced to support the National Science Foundation’s development of an HSI-focused research agenda. In addition, the team aims to motivate educational experiments at HSIs, create opportunities for collaboration within the workshop community, and recommend a conference-design structure for uncovering research needs of the HSI community and engaging educators in engineering education research.