Designing Our Tomorrow: Mobilizing the Next Generation of Engineers

August 1st, 2018 - July 31st, 2024 | PROJECT

This Innovations in Development project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. This includes providing multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences, advancing innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments, and developing understandings of deeper learning by participants.

The Designing Our Tomorrow project will develop a framework for creating exhibit-based engineering design challenges and expand an existing model of facilitation for use in engineering exhibits. The project seeks to broaden participation in engineering and build capacity within the informal science education (ISE) field while raising public awareness of the importance of sustainable engineering design practices. The project focuses on girls aged 9-14 and their families and is co-developed with culturally responsive strategies to ensure the inclusion and influence of families from Latino communities. The project will conduct research resulting in theory-based measures of engineering proficiencies within an exhibit context and an exhibit facilitation model for the topic area of engineering. Based on the research, the project will develop an engineering design challenge framework for developing design challenges within an exhibit context. As the context for research, the project will develop a bilingual English/Spanish 2,000-square foot traveling exhibition designed to engage youth and families in engineering design challenges that advance their engineering proficiencies from beginner to more informed, supported by professional development modules and a host-site training workshop introducing strategies for facilitating family engineering experiences within a traveling exhibition. The project is a collaboration of Oregon Museum of Science and Industry with the Biomimicry Institute, Adelante Mujeres, and the Fleet Science Center.

Designing Our Tomorrow builds on a theory-based engineering teaching framework and several previous NSF-funded informal education projects to engage families in compelling design challenges presented through the lens of sustainable design exemplified by biomimicry. Through culturally-responsive co-development and research strategies to include members of Latino communities and provide challenges that highlight the altruistic, creative, personally relevant, and collaborative aspects of engineering, the Designing Our Tomorrow exhibition showcases engineering as an appealing career option for women and helps families support each other's engineering proficiencies. To better understand and promote engineering learning in an ISE setting, the project will conduct two research studies to inform and iteratively develop effective strategies. In the first study, measurement development will build on prior research and practice to design credible and reliable measures of engineering proficiency, awareness, and collaboration, as well as protocols for use in exhibit development and the study of facilitation at engineering exhibits, and future research. The second study will explore the effects of facilitation on the experience outcomes.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

2019 AISL PI Meeting Poster: Designing Our Tomorrow - Mobilizing the next generation of engineers
2019 video: Welcome to Designing our Tomorrow -- Mobilizing the next generation of engineers
Designing our Tomorrow--Mobilizing the Next Generation of Engineers Public Audience Front-end Evaluation
C-PIECE Framework: Collaborative Practices at Interactive Engineering Challenge Exhibits
Exploring patterns of collaborative practices at interactive engineering challenge exhibits
The study of collaborative practices at interactive engineering challenge exhibits— background and methods (The C-PIECE Study)
Exhibit Features and Visitor Groups’ Engineering Design Practice
Engineering Awareness at Design Challenge Exhibits
2021 Poster - Wild Creativity
Storytelling and making meaning about engineering practices
2023 AISL Awardee Mini-Poster: 1811617
Caregivers and Researchers in synergy: Two perspectives on collaborative research
The EP&UDL Study
Creatividad silvestre/Wild Creativity Exhibit Summative Evaluation Report
Evaluation of Aira Visual Interpretation Service at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)

Team Members

Marcie Benne, Principal Investigator, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
Carla Herran, Co-Principal Investigator, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
Verónika Núñez, Former Co-Principal Investigator


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: AISL
Award Number: 1811617
Funding Amount: $1,196,714.00


Access and Inclusion: English Language Learners | Ethnic | Racial | Hispanic | Latinx Communities | Women and Girls
Audience: Elementary School Children (6-10) | Families | Learning Researchers | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Parents | Caregivers | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Engineering
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Making and Tinkering Programs | Museum and Science Center Exhibits | Museum and Science Center Programs | Public Programs