At NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering this summer, mechanical engineering graduate students, Matt and Anthony, along with NYU Steinhardt graduate student, Colin, are working with four middle-school math and science teachers as part of the National Science Foundation‘s Discovery Research PreK-12 program (DRK-12) program. DRK-12 teams across the country conduct research on and develop innovative approaches to the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in PreK-12. The NYU SoE DR K-12 project focuses on lowering barriers in STEM disciplines for students through teacher professional development with robotics as the curriculum focus.
Matt and Anthony, who were both embedded in NYC middle school STEM classrooms over the past year, as part of the AMPS/CBSI program, are continuing to work with Professor Vikram Kapila in DRK-12 by presenting lessons they’ve designed that employ robotics as a way to teach math and science concepts. Using the framework of Design-based Research, the teachers are providing feedback to fine-tune the lesson. This process is repeated to co-create project-based STEM learning that successfully incorporates technology.
While the engineering students are serving as technical experts, Colin and his advisor, Professor Catherine Milne of Steinhardt are the pedagogical experts. Since everyone in the room must run through the same robotics lessons that are intended for K-12 students, the teachers, graduate students, and professors are experiencing, first-hand, any glitches or unclear instructions, which are re-worked through Design-Based Research.
The four K-12 teachers are providing expert opinions on how the material might be seen if presented to different grades and any practical limitations or stumbling blocks to implementing the lessons. The lessons can be improved greatly during the summer, with the help of the teachers, before being tried again in classrooms. In addition, through this process, the teachers are gaining not only content and pedagogical knowledge, but also technical knowledge that will allow them to use technology in their classrooms effectively.