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This paper discusses the use of project-based interdisciplinary design activities to enhance the STEM education in City Tech’s School of Technology and Design. STEM education has been a key in producing qualified individuals to work in today’s fast paced, highly competitive companies. Unfortunately, the supply of qualified workforce has been reduced due to the steady drop of enrollment of college and high school students in STEM related fields for the past twenty years. To tackle the dwindling enrollment of STEM students and low quality of STEM graduates, in a report submitted to Congress in 2007, the National Science Board suggested that measures be taken so that all students can develop their capabilities in STEM to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past with an increased emphasis on technology and engineering at all levels in the Nation’s education system. The Board gave two priority recommendations: (1) Ensure Coherence in Nation’s STEM Education System; (2) Ensure that Students Are Taught by Well-Prepared and Highly Effective STEM Teachers. There is a need to change the perception of STEM education. STEM education cannot be viewed as teaching four unrelated subject matters. STEM education should be treated as an integral education. Mathematics, science, technology and engineering are taught in classes in hope that students will use these subjects simultaneously to make new discoveries, to explore new ideas, to make new products and to provide better services. As such, more project-based activities, that enable students to apply the knowledge and skills they learn from STEM courses should be implemented into curriculums. Practical hands-on learning-by-doing activities go hand-in-hand with STEM education. They complement each other. If a person does not have a good STEM knowledge, it is difficult for him/or her to become a competent innovator and designer. However, if a person demonstrates excellent STEM knowledge on exams, it does not mean this individual can be a competent designer or engineer overnight. Any successful designer or engineer would agree that it takes many years of experience and setbacks for him or her to reach that level. A top-down “reverse engineering approach” is used to tie design activities to various elements in STEM. Currently, most traditional STEM projects aimed at improving the STEM education address only one or two elements of STEM education and lack suitable activities to keep students engaged. Project-based design activities have proven to be very effective in attracting and motivating young people to study. The top-down learning-by-doing approach gives students a sense of accomplishment at each stage of their course work. That in turn, will inspire the students to continuously engage and focus on the STEM subject matter. Faculty members from multiple engineering technology departments are involved to address the multidisciplinary natures of the project and to develop teaching materials to improve STEM education as a whole. Rubrics to assess the effectiveness of the practice on student’s learning will be developed and compared with existing ABET’s program criteria in technology education.


Zhang, A. S., & Zia, F., & Heng, I. H., & Berri, S. (2012, June), Utilizing Project-based Multidisciplinary Design Activities to Enhance STEM Education Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22210, © 2012 American Society for Engineering Education.



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