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Spring 2007, Issue 7

Improving Education Through Engineering

The mission of the Tufts University Center for Engineering Educational Outreach (CEEO) is to make engineering part of K–12 education. The CEEO is housed on the ground floor of Curtis Hall on the Medford/Somerville Campus, and it has established an international reputation since its creation in 1996. The center was founded by Ioannis Miaoulis, PhD, dean of the School of Engineering at the time, engineering professor Chris Rogers, PhD, and Martha Cyr, PhD. Chris Rogers is the current director of the CEEO and a principal investigator on many of the center’s research projects. The goals of the center are to increase technological literacy and awareness of engineering’s importance for society, to give K–16 students skills that make learning effective and exciting, to inspire students to learn math and science, and to influence educators and the education of future educators. The center works on achieving these goals through outreach partnerships, tool and content development, education research, and educational programs.

Outreach Partnerships
Although engineering projects are often more rewarding, they also tend to be more demanding than lectures and worksheets. CEEO partnerships with local K–12 schools allow Tufts graduate and undergraduate students to work directly with teachers—in the classroom—in support of their use of engineering for learning. The Tufts Engineering the Next Steps (TENS) GK–12 Project pairs graduate engineering and computer science fellows with teachers, and the Student Teacher Outreach Mentorship Program (STOMP) sends engineering undergraduates into the classroom to assist teachers and pupils. STOMP projects at all grade levels are united by an emphasis on the engineering design process: students are encouraged to identify a problem or task, to outline or design a solution on paper, to construct and test the solution, and to analyze results and discuss improvements. The reach of the program has expanded since its inception in 2001 to include a STOMP at MIT, a High School STOMP, through which high schoolers go into elementary classrooms, and an Industry STOMP, through which company employees go into local schools.

Tool and Content Development
The CEEO develops web tools, software, and printed learning materials for activities, strategies, and teacher support. ROBOLAB, a successful robotics software program developed at the CEEO through sponsored research funded by the LEGO Group, has been translated into 14 languages and is taught in about 35,000 schools worldwide. LEGO bricks and ROBOLAB software are used by university engineering students to prototype their projects, by K–12 teachers to learn how to use engineering to enrich their teaching, and by K–12 students in the classroom and in after-school activities. Other learning tools developed by the CEEO include Stop-Action-Movies (SAM), which applies animation to support understanding of science concepts; a tissue engineering curriculum to bring this new discipline into high school classrooms; a musical instrument engineering curriculum to bring the science, technology, and history of musical instruments into elementary school classrooms; and a buildable bridge project, which features a library of  bridge models, to engage civil engineering students in outreach to K–12 schools. In addition to these in-house developments, the CEEO has worked with the Massachusetts Department of Education to include engineering in the state curriculum frameworks.

Education Research
The CEEO houses a thriving graduate research program, with doctoral and master’s degree students working to improve education through engineering. Much of this research is done by students in the Education Department’s Math, Science, Technology, and Engineering (MSTE) Program, a collaborative effort among several departments within the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering. The CEEO has stong links with the departments of Education and Child Development, as well as with the PACE (Psychology of Abilities, Competencies, and Expertise) Center.

Educational Programs
CEEO offerings for improving education through engineering include summer programs for children, professional development institutes for teachers and parents, and community building conferences for educators in the US, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

For more information on the CEEO, please go to http://www.ceeo.tufts.edu.

For CEEO research initiatives, please go to http://www.tuftl.tufts.edu/research/educationresearch.shtm.

 

 

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