Miller undergrad education grants awarded for next year

Since 1996, the F. Wendell Miller Faculty Fellowship Awards program has awarded $4,012,639 to 222 faculty-led research projects aimed at improving student learning. In this competitive program, 13 projects received funding for the 2022-23 academic year, totaling $225,376. Proposals were reviewed by the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching's advisory board, made up of faculty across the university. The funded projects are:


Promoting systems thinking through resilience-oriented design in civil engineering core curriculum

Grant: $15,000

Faculty team: Alice Alipour and Nathan Miner, civil, construction and environmental engineering

This project will update the content of engineering curriculums and the pedagogical strategies used to disseminate it. Training resilience-conscious engineers requires emphasis on systems thinking to understand how the technical, economic, societal and organizational aspects of design are connected. Current curriculums rely on specialization in the field following codes and standards that aren't necessarily designed with systems thinking in mind and, as a result, produce silo-minded, overspecialized students incapable of solving complex problems.


Empowering students for robotic construction era: A technology-enabled course module for 3D printing of structures

Grant: $25,000

Faculty team: Behrouz Shafei, civil, construction and environmental engineering; James Oliver, mechanical engineering; and Benjamin Gleason, School of Education

The proposed course module aims to transform the educational experience of civil, construction and environmental engineering undergraduates by introducing them to fundamental and practical aspects of robotic construction, with a focus on the 3D printing of buildings and bridges. This course module will benefit from both interactive 360-degree videos and augmented reality features to teach 3D printing essentials, using unique resources offered by Virtual Reality Applications Center and Student Innovation Center.


Enhancing learning and promoting equity in animal agriculture through an experiential course in dairy management

Grant: $24,011

Faculty team: Gail Carpenter and Ben Drescher, animal science

The proposed course will augment dairy management courses by allowing students of any background or experience to manage a subset of the cows housed at the ISU Dairy Research and Teaching Unit. Students will be responsible for the daily care of the animals and for all management decisions associated with production, expenditures, investments, animal welfare and sustainability.


Using 3D-printed terrain models to improve spatial thinking in the geosciences

Grant: $9,200

Faculty team: Chris Harding, Aaron Wood, Jacqueline Reber and Igor Beresnev, geological and atmospheric sciences; and Cori Hyde, Research Institute for Studies in Education

Spatial thinking ability (STA), especially the ability to interpret 2D contour maps, is critical for geology students to master and a strong predictor of student success in geoscience and other STEM fields. Traditional teaching methods are inconsistently effective and primarily appeal to students with innate STA, thus impeding student access to STEM careers. 3D-printed, physical terrain models are ideal for helping students successfully apply spatial thinking processes. Using these 3D-printed terrain models, we will develop and assess map-centric STA exercises for classes, labs, field trips and the ISU field camp in Wyoming.


Digitizing sample collections: An avenue into enhanced observation skills

Grant: $9,120

Faculty team: Ben Johnson, Lindsay Maudlin, Aaron Wood and Jacqueline Reber, geological and atmospheric sciences; and Carly Manz, genetics, development and cell biology

The proposal is to design a model for incorporating 3D photogrammetry into teaching lab exercises to help students hone their critical observation skills of physical samples. We hypothesize that "knowing" the sample via photogrammetry will discretize the learning process, reduce cognitive load on students and benefit academic ability and identity within STEM. The proposal includes establishing protocols and assessment tools for transferring this method to courses both in our departments and across campus.


Integrating industry-defined nontechnical skills into the curriculum

Grant: $25,000

Faculty team: Katherine Madson and Jennifer Shane, civil, construction, and environmental engineering; and Tina Coffelt, English

Using job postings, this project will identify the most desirable nontechnical skills for construction engineering graduates, determine employers' intent in seeking those skills and develop course material that can be implemented across construction engineering courses to effectively teach these nontechnical skills. By providing a scaffolding approach to the developed material, students can engage in more advanced content as they progress through their degree programs.


Promoting student well-being and self-efficacy through peer support networks

Grant: $19,191

Faculty team: Corinna Most and John Pleasants, ecology, evolution and organismal biology; Clark Coffman, Mohan Gupta and Hua Bai, genetics, development and cell biology; Mollie Appelgate, School of Education; and Tom Neppl, landscape architecture

This project aims to increase student success through the intentional use of peer mentors and structured activities to promote students' overall well-being and sense of self-efficacy. The proposed courses are aimed primarily at biology and genetics majors in their second and third semesters but will be open to all students interested in STEM. As students struggle with this transition and potential uncertainty and self-doubt, it is key that they have access to a supportive community.


Increasing the adoption of automated writing support through curricular integration

Grant: $23,447

Faculty team: Jim Ranalli, Jenny Aune and Casey White, English

This project seeks broad implementation of Grammarly at ISU by establishing an empirically grounded, collaboratively developed course-integration model, based in ISUComm's advanced communication courses. It also can be implemented in other high-enrollment courses and lead to wider adoption of the grammar assistance tool.


Project-based entrepreneurship within Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) outcomes

Grant: $10,000

Faculty team: Dave Sly and Gary Mirka, industrial and manufacturing systems engineering; Anuj Sharma, civil, construction and environmental engineering; Matt Nelson, aerospace engineering; and Steve Bell, agricultural and biosystems engineering

This proposal is for the development, execution and ABET-qualified evaluation of a course-based set of (Engineering) collegewide projects targeted at sophomores and juniors. The projects and their evaluation criteria will be designed to introduce students to entrepreneurial skill sets and mindsets in a manner that fosters a deep understanding of the customer and their requirements considering available market solutions. This effort will focus on the design and prospective customer presentation and evaluation of those designs.


Learning networks instructional dashboard

Grant: $14,986

Faculty team: Rachel Smith and Michael Brown, School of Education; Nicholas Fila and Joseph Zambreno, electrical and computer engineering

This project's purpose is to improve instruction and student career readiness in electrical and computer engineering by implementing a peer network-based dashboard in the senior design courses that allows instructors to observe student team collaboration. The dashboard summarizes student behavioral engagement, team formation and performance, and classroom learning community structure by combining self-reported peer interaction data with behavioral engagement data from Canvas. The combination of student relational and individual engagement allows the course instructor to provide targeted individual and team support throughout the semester.


Enhancement and curriculum development for the Construction and Infrastructure Visualization Laboratory

Grant: $20,507

Faculty team: Roy Sturgill, Brad Perkins and Renee Fleming, civil, construction and environmental engineering

This project will build on resources in the Construction and Infrastructure Visualization Laboratory by creating curriculum for five courses in the construction engineering degree program. The curriculums will advance a student through Bloom's Taxonomy regarding visualization tools as a student progresses through their degree. 3D models will be introduced, applied and created in the courses applying this curriculum. Previous investment in visualization technology allows students to be immersed in these 3D models, familiarizing them with the most current technologies and enhancing visualization skill and interest through new technological tools.


Latinx oral histories in Iowa: Collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches to teaching, learning and community outreach

Grant: $4,920

Faculty team: Lucía Suárez, world languages and cultures; and Daniel Hartwig, Parks Library

This project will develop a new course that explores Latina/o/x life stories, with community outreach and digital archive components, that connects students to each other and Latinx communities. Through collaborative and multimodal learning, students will:

  • Recognize the difference between memoir and oral history
  • Tutor memoir-writing skills to MUJERES Club at Marshalltown High School
  • Examine the oral histories produced by the University of Texas, Austin, "Voces of a Pandemic Oral History Project," of which ISU is a member
  • Produce an oral history to be archived and featured at Parks Library and with the National Voices Project


Undergarments: Responding to sensitivities for people with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome through research-focused design solutions

Grant: $24,994

Faculty team: Ling Zhang and Rachel Eike, apparel, events and hospitality management

Through science-grounded activities, students will gain experience researching, producing and evaluating undergarment design solutions for people who suffer from extreme skin sensitivities associated with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. Innovative teaching tools will be applied in classes, including computer-aided design pattern-making, virtual fitting, product lifecycle management software, product experiments and industry expert interactions. Students will benefit from new teaching modules, learning materials, in-class activities and assignments.