Join the Designing our Tomorrow research journey

Why Study Engineering Proficiencies

Need for Diversity

There is a strong disparity in participation in the engineering fields. By studying how institutions can broaden participation of underrepresented groups, we can fill gaps to maximize innovation in solving future problems. We will achieve this by building on prior work on engaging girls in STEM using altruistic, personally relevant and social experiences, and increasing bilingual exhibits that teach engineering proficiencies.

Effective Exhibit Learning

There are not many resources to support Informal STEM Education (ISE) field when it comes to engineering learning, and engineering learning with facilitation. By studying and developing measures of how people successfully engage in engineering at informal exhibits, we will provide the field with resources to evaluate engineering learning in ISE with and without facilitation.

Sustainable Future

By better understanding and promoting engineering learning in ISE, we will raise public awareness of sustainable engineering practices. With the guidance of Nature as a model, mentor, and measure, biomimicry provides a lens to solve the problems humans face in a way that is conducive with all life on Earth.

The C-PIECE Study

The purpose of the C-PIECE Study was to develop theory-based measures of engineering proficiencies within an exhibit context. The investigation was guided by the following research questions:

  • What instruments capture engineering proficiencies at exhibits? Specifically, what are valid approaches to assess visitors’ proficiency in (a) Defining a problem, and (b) Optimizing Solutions at exhibits?
  • What is a valid method for determining visitor awareness of engineering process in an exhibit?
  • What is a valid method for determining intergenerational collaboration?

The C-PIECE Study developed integrated measures for several visitor experience outcomes including engineering proficiencies, intergenerational collaboration and visitor satisfaction. We employed culturally responsive approaches to data collection and analysis, in which the culture and context of the visitors are considered crucial facets in evaluating the study’s impact. This included a culturally responsive framework specific to the project and strategies for data collection, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination. 

The Usefulness Relevance Study

The Usefulness Relevance Study looked at the storytelling strategies parents and educators use to communicate to other parents and educators that the DOT exhibit is of value and usefully relevant to engineering practices in families’ everyday lives. While continuing with research approaches applied in the C-PIECE study—valuing engineering broadly, honoring cultural and family assets, and including participants with intention—we decided to also prioritize the centering of parent/guardian voices, co-development between parents and educators, and stories as a means to learn more about how adults communicate the DOT exhibits’ relevance with regard to everyday engineering practices. 

The study reveals evidence that begins to show relationships between variables such as the content strategies in the stories and the perceived usefulness of DOT engineering practices mentioned in the stories. The study was designed to support stories that are part of ecological communications; not any one particular stereotype story. The approaches and model emerging from this evidence can inform many types of stories that are told about the value and usefulness of exhibits, such as between parents or between educators and parents.