Adding nanoscience education to first-year engineering design courses to enrich student experience

P. L. Hirsch, S. W. Dugan, D. Drane, S. Swarat, E. J. Park, R. P.H. Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigated a key question related to adding disciplinary content, specifically concepts from nanoscience education, to a project-based, user-centered freshman design course: that is, can such content be added to the course to enrich the students' understanding of science and engineering as they study and engage in design? In the treatment section, students studied two "big ideas" in nanoscience - "size and scale" and "surface area to volume ratio" - along with an introduction to curriculum design before designing educational lessons for middle school science and math classrooms. Comparing their performance to that of students in the control sections, which focused on product design, we used surveys to assess design confidence and final reports to examine knowledge of design process and engineering design communication. Despite the small sample size, results suggest that the added domain-specific content does enrich students' experience of design as demonstrated in final deliverables. In particular, the pre/post classroom assessment results from the middle school classrooms give direct positive feedback to the design teams for further improvements and thus demonstrate how the design process can be used to enhance educational performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-254
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Materials Education
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Design education
  • Engineering education
  • Nanoscience education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Materials Science
  • General Engineering


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