STEM Small Grants Program 2013-2014

A total of 12 mini-grants were awarded from a pool of 11 proposals submitted in 2013-14 through a Request for Proposals process. Proposals were invited from faculty who teach undergraduate STEM courses. Innovative projects that sought to improve instruction and student learning in undergraduate STEM courses and /or increase the number of students majoring in and graduating in STEM disciplines were eligible for support. Collaboration between two or more UGA faculty was strongly encouraged.

Foutz, Timothy L.

UGA, College of Engineering

Engineering Community Engagement Module – Strategy on the Retention of Engineering Majors

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The overarching question addressed in this research project is Can an instructional module positively influence first semester first-year students’ perceptions of engineering’s role in society without increasing the academic load of an already packed engineering curriculum? During the semester, Engineering Community Engagement (ECE) events involving alumni were offered for students to engage in conversations about career paths, and how STEM courses affect those paths. Participation was voluntary and no additional coursework was associated with participation. A quantitative instrument, used by the investigator since 2011, was used to assess freshmen opinions, knowledge, and skill awareness related to an engineering program of study prior to participation in the ECE and subsequent to participation. Results suggest that the extra-curricular activities did not impact student learning as anticipated. The project did influence the structure of the College’s engineering projects; a stand-alone first-year course is now offered where students engage in professional practice in a traditional learning setting.

Grundstein, Andrew

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Geography

The Development of Inquiry Based Exercises on Plate Tectonics/Volcanism, Earth Materials, and Ecosystems for Geography 1111L: An Introduction to Physical Geography Laboratory Sections. (Final Report)

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The project resulted in the development and deployment of three new active learning laboratory exercises intended to improve student learning in Geography 1111L. The topics addressed included Earth materials, plate tectonics and volcanism, and ecosystems. Four laboratory sections (two experimental and two traditional) totaling 115 students were involved in the project. Results demonstrated improved learning in the Earth materials lab. Students preferred the hands-on Biome lab activities over the in-class control section in which plant types were identified. Future work will refine the labs taking a closer look at focus, time on-task, and group size.

Hubbard, Richard

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry

Morrison, Richard

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry

Jackson, Douglas

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry

Incorporating HNMR Analysis into the Organic Chemistry Laboratory Curriculum

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The Chemistry Department acquired three desktop HNMRs for the undergraduate organic laboratories. HNMR analysis is the most important analytical technique introduced in the introductory organic chemistry lecture course. Using these technologies, the group integrated PicoSpin NMRs into the undergraduate instructional laboratory to give students the ability to use advanced analytical techniques in the exploration of experimental results.  This experience both strengthens the concept of NMR spectral analysis and provides students with the opportunity to employ technology commonly used in academic research facilities. The Morrison research group recently developed and patented a novel approach to amino acid decarboxylation that provides facile access to biologically important alkaloids and neurotransmitters. NMR technology was used to analyze the products of this original decarboxylation experiment utilizing microwave chemistry in addition to the products of a more traditional Fischer esterification experiment. The integration of the new analytical technology proved successful as students correctly identified their unknown starting material from their product spectra. Specifically, 42 out of 50 students (84%) correctly identified their decarboxylation product and 233 students out of 260 (90%) correctly identified their esterification product. We hope to continue to integrate this important technology more extensively into the instructional labs in the future.

Kellam, Nadia

UGA, College of Engineering

Walther, Joachim

UGA, College of Engineering

Building Creative Confidence in Mechanical Engineering Students through the IM Creative Studio (Final Report)

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The purpose of the project was to develop hands-on design activities called IM Creative Studio that will be used in the Mechanical Engineering Design Studio during a student’s first year at UGA. This type of learning activity is intended to help students to think of themselves as creative individuals and to become more engaged in studying mechanical engineering. The initial project involved students in Product Archaeology in which teams of students deconstructed and reconstructed an appliance as well as conducted research on the history of the appliance, cost for use, materials involved, environmental impact when discarded as well as potential design modifications for use in other countries. These students were also required to role play and consider their appliance from the perspective of an environmentalist, designer, physicist, archeologist, and machinist.  Other design projects included students’ designing for a specific user group and making high resolution prototypes—using 3d printers and arduino micro controllers. Data were collected in the form of interviews with students. Initial results have been positive both in student learning and in revised teaching practices.  
The two conference papers that have been submitted as abstracts are:
Carberry, A., Kellam, N., Brunhaver, S., Sugar, T., and McKenna, A. “Excavating the Impact of Product Archaeology,” Proceedings of the 6th Research in Engineering Education Symposium, Dublin, Ireland, 2015.
Lande, M., Kellam, N., and Jordan, S. "Making the Engineering Curriculum: Translating Research on Student-Centered Teaching into Practice,” Proceedings of the 6th Research in Engineering Education Symposium, Dublin, Ireland, 2015.

Miller, Kristen

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Biology

Evans, Mara

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Biology

Midterm Student Evaluations and Instructional Coaching: Investigating How Graduate Student Laboratory Instructors Use Feedback About Their Teaching (Final Report)

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The primary goal of this research study is to determine what elements of a Midterm Evaluation (MTE) approach are perceived useful by Graduate Student Lab Instructors (GLIs) and to learn what motivates GLIs to obtain feedback about their teaching, and how they experience feedback from their students. The project engaged the expertise of trained teaching consultants to conduct GLI evaluations. Interviews from GLIs who volunteered to be evaluated during the term along with those who did not were transcripted and randomly assigned to three subset groups for review. The review is expected to generate overall trends and themes. This clarification of GLI instructional success will indirectly have potential to improve student learning.

Morrison, Richard

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry

Caughran, Joel

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry

Gokal, Rupa

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry

Flipping the Organic Chemistry Lecture

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A concern that students sometimes express is that exam questions are nothing like what has been discussed in lecture or the end-of-chapter problems. One pedagogical solution that has been used in physics is to ‘flip the classroom.’ Students learn basic concepts by reading the textbook, viewing video lectures, watching demonstrations, and working on definitions and basic concepts outside the classroom. Lecture time is available to work on more advanced concept application. The goal of this project is to develop a library of video lectures that cover the topics taught in a traditional organic chemistry course and supplement them with currently available demonstrations and animations so students can master basic concepts before coming to class. The group will also develop pre-class questions and in-class questions that cover the preparatory materials to encourage students to prepare before class. At the conclusion, all course materials developed will be made available to faculty teaching organic chemistry at UGA. Results will be submitted to the Journal of Chemical Education, or other suitable journal.

Salguero, Tina

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry

Inquiry-Based Nobel Prize Experiments for UGA’s Advanced Undergraduate Chemistry Laboratory Course (Final Report)

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This project involves a complete revision of the inorganic chemistry portion of CHEM3512 taught during the Spring 2014 semester. The revision includes a new set of open-ended experiments, new lab manuals, restructured schedule, and revised expectations of course requirements. The goal is to improve students’ experimental abilities, enhance learning, increase appreciation for research that drives chemical innovation, help develop professional skills, and provide a tested curriculum of inquiry-based laboratory experiments that future instructors can use. While the initial sample size was relatively small (14), student feedback indicates that the new approach to student engagement was effective in increasing exploration and problem solving.  The researcher will continue to expand the number of experiments utilizing this approach and to share results with colleagues in the department and elsewhere.

Tanner, Hillary

UGA, College of Engineering

Domizi, Denise

UGA, Center for Teaching and Learning

Gattie, David

UGA, College of Engineering

Student Perceptions of Engineering, from First to Final Year (Final Report)

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For some time, the traditional lecture-style course format has been challenged as an ineffective way to educate students, particularly those in the STEM fields who must develop significant problem solving skills.  Dr. Salguero’s project focuses on developing an innovative outreach-based class activity in a recently revamped course, CHEM 4400. The goals of the project are to 1) improve learning and confidence by having students apply their chemistry knowledge to a real situation, 2) develop the professional skills of students, especially with respect to oral communication and scientific citizenship, and 3) provide a tested example of how faculty can implement active instruction in an improved course for chemistry majors.  In the new CHEM 4400 class project, teams of 2-3 students will work together to develop a 10 minute chemistry demonstration, including both an experimental part and an accompanying technical explanation. During the last few weeks of the semester, each team will “perform” their demonstration in one of the large general chemistry sections. The impact of this project will be measured through videotaped chemistry demonstrations viewed by the whole class, students will be asked to write a short reflective essay on the final exam, and anonymous feedback will be collected from the departmental course evaluation. The demonstrations will be made available on YouTube, and results will be presented at a STEM education conference, and published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Tippins, Deborah

UGA, College of Education

An Analysis of Pre-Service Science Teachers’ Interdisciplinary Understandings of Design Technology (Final Report)

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A coherent understanding design technology/engineering requires students to draw on knowledge constructed in multiple disciplinary contexts. In this study, the researcher sought to investigate pre-service teachers’ understandings of teaching learning, and design technology through problem-solving tasks. The project also sought to analyze pre-service teachers’ application of interdisciplinary knowledge, and to understand how pre-service teachers might engage their future students in design technology. Results suggest that there is a need for prospective teachers to have more in-depth experiences with design technology, and with children to better understand how design technology can be integrated into the curriculum. The results were presented at the Association of Science Teacher Educators (ASTE) and the National Association for Research in Science Training (NARST).

Wang, Xianqiao

UGA, College of Engineering

Computational Experiments:  Beyond Abstruse Equations in Science and Engineering Education (Final Report)

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This research study seeks to implement simulation-based engineering and science (SBES) strategies into an undergraduate engineering course to stimulate students to learn science and engineering in more profound ways. This is a departure from more traditional instructional methods in engineering in which the focus is on theoretical analysis as opposed to actual hands-on experimentation. A simulation of the tensile test using carbon nanotube materials was created and implemented into ENGR2120 – Engineering Statics. Results indicate that the virtual experiments provide a more interactive way to help students understand concepts such as force-displacement relationships and the consequences of force acting on a body.  This simulation also offers an intriguing and active way for students to interpret abstruse physical equations and learn the fundamental meaning beyond the equations.  Introducing virtual experiments into the course has stimulated learning of engineering concepts.

Wiegert, Craig

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Physics and Astronomy

Evolution of Online Homework Usage Patterns in Introductory Physics

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The mini-grant partially supported a physics graduate student for the spring semester in 2014.  This student had some previous exposure to our online homework system (LON-CAPA) prior to the project, and extensive computing experience both with the Python programming language and with database design.  He wrote computer scripts that take "raw data" log files from LON-CAPA and extract the relevant details about resource access times and student submissions.  With the volume of data that the homework system produces, we decided that working with textual or CSV (spreadsheet) data files would be counterproductive. Thus, the student next developed a database structure to combine the user access data with the information about the resources they access.

The researcher presented preliminary results from the project, on a limited data set, at the national meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers. Although this graduate student's time on the project is now finished, and we have not analyzed the full data set, the project is in a state that he can hand off to another graduate or undergraduate student for further progress.