The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Virginia Tech an EArly-concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER). The new grant will be used to explore innovative ways to incorporate engineering literacy into the general education curriculum.

The $295,000 award will provide two years of funding. The current year will be dedicated to curriculum planning, and a pilot project will be launched next year. At the end of the second year, NSF will evaluate the project's results to determine if additional money, potentially millions of dollars, will be provided to continue the project long-term.

“Virginia Tech is a leader in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields,” said Daniel A. Wubah, vice president for undergraduate education, deputy provost, and principal investigator for this grant. “While most students are exposed to science and math in general education courses, engineering has not traditionally been included. Because of the strength of engineering education at Virginia Tech, it is logical to make it part of the core education of all our STEM majors and non-majors as well.”

The project’s goal is to strengthen STEM education at Virginia Tech, for those within STEM majors and non-majors as well, particularly focused on early exposure to and development of evidence-based engineering design-based teaching, supported by integrated technology tools.

The project is a product of the work of Wubah and four other faculty members representing a diverse set of offices and responsibilities on campus: Stephanie Adams, professor and head of the Department of Engineering Education; Gardner Campbell, director of professional development and innovative initiatives in the Department of Learning Technologies; Peter Doolittle, executive director of the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research; and Ray Van Dyke, executive director of the Office of Assessment and Evaluation.

“The team is interdisciplinary with a clear purpose,” said Wubah. “We want to develop an innovative way to integrate engineering principles and concepts into the curriculum. As we do that, we want to make sure we correctly assess and evaluate the project so it is meaningful for students and faculty.”

According to the NSF website, EAGER funding is provided for “exploratory work in its early stages on untested, but potentially transformative, research ideas or approaches. This work may be considered especially ‘high risk-high payoff’ in the sense that it, for example, involves radically different approaches, applies new expertise, or engages novel disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspectives.”

This grant comes during plans to revamp the university’s general education requirements, known as the Curriculum for Liberal Education. Part of the process includes providing a greater emphasis on inter- and multi-disciplinary efforts in general education, as well as linking the Curriculum for Liberal Education more effectively to signature elements of the Virginia Tech experience. The new grant, which will be run through the Office of the Vice President for Undergraduate Education, is one part of this effort to explore how to transform general education requirements on campus.

At the end of the first year, data and the curriculum plan will be shared with the Virginia Tech community to provide feedback before the pilot project is launched.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

Share this story