MEERC 5-Year Impact Report
The mission of the MEERC is to transform engineering education through interdisciplinary, empirical research. The overarching research goals of the MEERC are:
Strengthen the engineering workforce by better preparing graduates to meet the grand challenges of the 21st century.
Strengthen the engineering workforce by recruiting more and diverse talent into the engineering community.
Improve the efficiency of engineering education.
#1: Significantly increase faculty productivity in the area of engineering education
research at MSU.
Measured by the number and amount of funded research projects and scholarly publications.
#2: Initiate large-scale research projects at MSU targeting the goals listed above.
Measured by the number of ongoing projects and number of students impacted.
#3: Establish MSU as a leader within the American Society of Engineering Education
Measured by the number of papers published in ASEE outlets, the number of leadership roles MSU faculty hold within ASEE, and the number of awards received from ASEE.
#4: Contribute to the training of tomorrow’s professoriate.
Measured by the quality of initiatives put in place at MSU to prepare engineering Ph.D. students to become professors who thrive in both research and teaching scholarship.
It’s hard to believe that the MEERC is celebratingits five-year anniversary.
It seems like just yesterday that a small group of us were discussing the possibility
of expanding engineering education research at MSU. We knew there was interest among
faculty, and that we had the ability to contribute
to the field, but we didn’t know how to make it work within the current structure of our college. As we began to collect feedback from faculty and administrators on this idea, we were overwhelmed by the positive support for our initiative at all levels.
It was decided that we should pursue “center” designation from the Montana Board of Regents. Becoming a center allowed our educational research to fall under a common umbrella that made more sense to outside funding agencies. It also provided administrative structure for new faculty that wanted to engage in educa- tion research. In September of 2016, our center status was officially approved by the Board of Regents and the MEERC was launched. Phase 1 of the MEERC focused on growing externally funded research by enabling faculty that had always wanted to propose educational research projects but didn’t know the process.
The MEERC facilitated forming interdisciplinary proposal writing teams with the right combination of skills and passions. As these teams were formed and proposals started to be generated, magic started to happen. The only scientific analogy I can think of to explain what occurred is a nuclear chain reaction. Every team that worked on a proposal generated two more ideas for follow-on proposals. As grants began to be funded, other faculty took notice and wanted to join the MEERC and propose their own ideas. The number of faculty involved in the MEERC grew exponentially as did the number of proposals submitted and ultimately, the number of funded projects.
As we celebrate our fifth anniversary, the MEERC currently oversees15 active grants— 14 from the National Science Foundation and one from the Kern Family foundation. These grants represent $9 million of external funding that involves35 facultyspanning all departments within the Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering along with faculty from the College of Education, Health and Human Development, the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship, the Col- lege of Letters and Science, the Honors College and the Library.
As you’ll see from the project summaries that follow, our research spans the entire spectrum of engineering education from the initial formation of engineering identity in elementary school to contributing value in the workforce. It has been an exhilarating process to watch. As we move into the next five years of the MEERC, we will continue to work on bringing in external funding for our projects, as well as how to implement programs at MSU that positively impact our students using the findings from our own educational research. It has been an honor to serve as Director of the MEERC through its formation and rocket-ship launch. While the future is always unknown, my personal opinion is that it will be awesome.
Brock J. LaMeres,
Director, Montana Engineering Education Research Center
Boeing Professor of Engineering Education
Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Supporting Engineering Identity
On average, at least a third of college freshman change their majors. Unfortunately for the engineering profession, students in STEM majors are even more likely to change majors than their non-STEM counterparts. With a $200,000 grant from the NSF, a team of MSU educators led by Abbie Richards, head of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, is addressing this by piloting a program aimed at supporting the formation of engineering identify early in students' undergraduate experience. Freshman and sophomores are connected with seniors who serve as role models, and course material from senior capstone courses is integrated into lower-division core classes.
PI: Abbie Richards (Chemical and Biological Engineering)
Co-PI: Carrie Meyers (Education)
Co-PI: Ryan Anderson (Chemical and Biological Engineering)
Supporting Interdisciplinary Research
Often university administrative structures hinder the hiring of faculty that do research in areas that do not fall within the prevue of any particular department. Space science is one of these areas as it straddles the fields of physics, electrical engineering, astronomy, and applied mathematics. The National Science Foundation has established a program to assist universities in bringing on space science faculty by providing support for the first five years of salary in addition to funding for an interdisciplinary mentoring network. Building on a strong track record of conducting space science and engineering, MSU has tapped a $1.5 million NSF grant to hire a new space science faculty member and create a support structure to help navigate the first few years of being a professor in an interdisciplinary field.
PI: Robert Mokwa (Civil Engineering)
Co-PI: John Sample (Physics)
Co-PI: Dave Klumpar (Physics)
Co-PI: Yves Idzerda (Physics)
Co-PI: Angela Des Jardins (Physics)
Co-PI: Brock LaMeres (Electrical and Computer Engineering)
Portal Into Engineering
Studies show that students who aren't able to envision themselves as engineers at an early age are less likely to pursue engineering careers later in life. This can be especially true of students who don't have ready access to academic and extracurricular activities. Research has shown that incorporating engineering-related educational games into middle school curricula can help students develop an engineering identity. With a $350,000 grant from NSF, a team led by Paul Gannon, professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, is working with teachers to develop and introduce educational games for fourth graders that demonstrate engineering concepts. The researchers are studying how students' sense of engineering change as a result of playing the games.
PI: Paul Gannon (Chemical and Biological Engineering)
Co-PI: Nick Lux (Education)
Co-PI: Amanda Obery (Education, MSU-Billings)
Indian Education in Computing: a Montana Story
Because computer science standards are new to Montana, teachers need support to bring computer science into their classrooms. Backed by a $635,000 NSF grant, a team led by Brittany Fasy, associate professor of Computer Science, have partnered with Montana education stakeholders to develop a new computer science curriculum for grades 4-8 that integrates with other school curricula, including Montana’s Indian Education For All curriculum. The project provides support through two novel approaches to computing: storytelling using the Alice programming platform, and physical computing with textiles that are embedded with electronics and then programmed by students. By striving to make computing more fun and accessible, the project makes an important contribution to developing a culturally responsive computing curriculum for Montana students.
PI: Brittany Fasy (Computer Science)
Co-PI: Stacey Hancock (Mathematical Sciences)
Co-PI: Travis Peters (Computer Science)
Brock J. LaMeres, Ph.D. Professor, Electrical and Computer EngineeringBoeing Professor of Engineering Education
LaMeres was appointed the Director of the MEERC
in October of 2016. He received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Colorado in 2005. LaMeres joined the MSU faculty in 2006 where his scholarly interests are in digital systems and education research.
[email protected] • montana.edu/blameres
Paul Gannon, Ph.D. Professor, Chemical and Biological Engineering
Gannon was appointed as Associate Director of the MEERC in January of 2017. He received his Ph.D. in engineering from Montana State University in 2007. Gannon joined the MSU faculty in 2008 where his scholarly interests are in material science and education research.
p[email protected] chbe.montana.edu/sofc/People/Gannon.html
William Schell, Ph.D.Associate Professor, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering
Schell was appointed as Associate Director of the MEERC in January of 2017. He received
his Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering from the University of Alabama
in Huntsville in 2010. Schell joined the MSU faculty in 2012 where his scholarly interests are in engineering management and education research.
[email protected] • montana.edu/wschell