Scale Up Your NSF Project With I-Corps-L

September 9th, 2014

On September 8, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Education & Human Resources (EHR) Directorate hosted an Open House on the new I-Corps for Learning (I-Corps-L) program. Over the past year, this program provided support for currently funded, innovative NSF projects to develop strategies to successfully “scale up” in a sustainable way. Building on the successful first year of the program, a Dear Colleague letter for additional opportunities is now available. Proposals are due September 30, 2014.

The program provides support for teams of, at minimum, three contributors to the project—the PI of the prior award, an entrepreneurial lead, and a mentor— to undergo a seven-week program that results in a viable plan to sustainably scale up the education innovation spurred by their NSF award. Training includes using a Business Model Canvas template to devise a sustainable strategy. This program is ideal for projects that have a “product” that is viable and useful on a wide scale, but are coming near to the end of their NSF award. A key component of the process involves the teams conducting at least 100 interviews with stakeholders (“customers”) of their product—an exercise that gets the teams out of the lab (or learning setting) and into the field.

Examples from the pilot program include:

  • Experiential Learning for Veterans in Assistive Technology and Engineering (ELeVATE) at the University of Pittsburgh. ELeVATE is a comprehensive, three-phase program for re-integrating veterans into college. Through the I-Corps-L program, the ELeVATE team explored how to pilot the program at other universities across the country. Maria Milleville, Education & Outreach Coordinator at Pitt’s Human Engineering Research Lab, spoke from the perspective of an entrepreneurial lead on an I-Corps-L team. She provided logistical support for the 100+ interviews that the team conducted, as well as many other aspects of the planning and implementation processes.
  • Carpal Coding at Tennessee Tech University. Dr. Stephen Canfield, PI of the “Carpal Coding” project, led a team to discover how to bring their undergraduate student training program to even more students.
  • Engineering Ambassadors at Penn State University. The Engineering Ambassadors program connects prospective students, as well as the general public, to the University’s College of Engineering. Joanna Gardner of Old Dominion University served as a mentor on this team, providing guidance and critical input during the planning process to expand Engineering Ambassadors to other universities.


Do you have an education innovation that has the potential to scale up? Make sure to submit a proposal by September 30, 2014. And, take a look at how another NSF-funded project answered the challenge of scaling up in a sustainable way after their NSF award ended.