All Issues

Volume 1, 2021

STEM Education

Open Access Articles

Non-routine mathematical problem-solving: Creativity, engagement, and intuition of STEM tertiary students
Tanya Evans, Sergiy Klymchuk, Priscilla E. L. Murphy, Julia Novak, Jason Stephens and Mike Thomas
2021, 1(4): 256-278 doi: 10.3934/steme.2021017 +[Abstract](237) +[HTML](92) +[PDF](505.47KB)

This study set out to evaluate an intervention that introduced a period of non-routine problem-solving into tertiary STEM lectures at four tertiary institutions in New Zealand for 683 students. The aim was twofold: to attempt to increase student engagement and to introduce them to the kind of domain-free abstract reasoning that involves critical, creative, and innovative thinking. This study was conducted using a mixed-methods approach, utilizing different types of instruments to gather data: comprehensive student pre- and post-test questionnaires, a content validation survey for the questionnaires, focus group interviews (student participants), open-ended questionnaire (lecturer participants), and naturalistic class observations. The main findings are as follows. Students' behavioural engagement was significantly greater during the intervention. Perceptions of the utility value of the activity improved at the end of the semester for all students. There were no significant changes in students' convergent thinking (problem-solving), intuition, or creativity (originality, fluency, and elaboration traits of the divergent thinking) during the course, probably due to the relatively short timescale of the intervention. However, overall, the results of the investigation suggest that with a relatively small effort, teachers can improve STEM student engagement by devoting a few minutes per lecture on non-routine problem-solving. This is something that can be easily implemented, even by those who primarily teach in a traditional lecturing style.

Examination of modelling in K-12 STEM teacher education: Connecting theory with practice
Dragana Martinovic and Marina Milner-Bolotin
2021, 1(4): 279-298 doi: 10.3934/steme.2021018 +[Abstract](275) +[HTML](183) +[PDF](889.92KB)

The goal of this paper is to examine the place of modelling in STEM education and teacher education. First, we introduce modelling as a cyclical process of generating, testing, and applying knowledge while highlighting the epistemological commonalities and differences between the STEM disciplines. Second, we build on the four well-known frameworks, to propose an Educational Framework for Modelling in STEM, which describes both teacher and student roles in the modelling cycle. Third, we use this framework to analyze how modelling is presented in the new mathematics and science school curricula in two Canadian provinces (Ontario and British Columbia), and how it could be implemented in teacher education. Fourth, we emphasize the epistemological aspects of the Educational Framework for Modelling in STEM, as disciplinary epistemological foundations may seem too abstract to both teacher educators and teachers of STEM school subjects. Yet, epistemologies are the driving forces within each discipline and must be considered while teaching STEM as a unified field. To nurture critical thinkers and innovators, it is critical to pay attention to what knowledge is and how it is created and tested. The Educational Framework for Modelling in STEM may be helpful in introducing students and future teachers to the process of modelling, regardless of if they teach it in a single- or a multi-discipline course, such as STEM. This paper will be of interest to teacher educators, teachers, researchers, and policy makers working within and between the STEM fields and interested in promoting STEM education and its epistemological foundations.

Microlearning and computer-supported collaborative learning: An agenda towards a comprehensive online learning system
Soheila Garshasbi, Brian Yecies and Jun Shen
2021, 1(4): 225-255 doi: 10.3934/steme.2021016 +[Abstract](277) +[HTML](213) +[PDF](744.67KB)

With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic and its inevitable consequences in education, increased demand for robust online learning frameworks has occurred at all levels of the education system. Given the transformative power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms, there have been determined attempts through the design and application of intelligent tools to overcome existing challenges in online learning platforms. Accordingly, educational providers and researchers are investigating and developing intelligent online learning environments which share greater commonalities with real-world classroom conditions in order to better meet learners' needs. However, short attention spans and the widespread use of smart devices and social media bring about new e-learning systems known as microlearning (ML). While there has been ample research investigating ML and developing micro-content, pedagogical challenges and a general lack of alternative frameworks, theories and practices still exist. The present models have little to say about the connections between social interaction, including learner–content, learner–instructor and learner–learner communication. This has prompted us to investigate the complementary aspects of Computer-supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) as an interactive learning model, along with an embedded ML module in the design and development of a comprehensive learning platform. The purpose of this study is to explore the pedagogical frameworks and challenges with reference to interaction and retention in online learning environments, as well as the theoretical and pedagogical foundations of ML and its applications. In addition, we delve into the theories and principles behind CSCL, the main elements in CSCL, identifying the issues and challenges to be faced in improving the efficacy of collaboration processes and outcomes. In short, we aim to synthesize how microlearning and CSCL can be applied as effective modules within a comprehensive online learning platform, thereby offering STEM educators a relevant roadmap towards progress that has yet to be offered in previous studies.

The Laplace transform as an alternative general method for solving linear ordinary differential equations
William Guo
2021, 1(4): 309-329 doi: 10.3934/steme.2021020 +[Abstract](342) +[HTML](93) +[PDF](910.86KB)

The Laplace transform is a popular approach in solving ordinary differential equations (ODEs), particularly solving initial value problems (IVPs) of ODEs. Such stereotype may confuse students when they face a task of solving ODEs without explicit initial condition(s). In this paper, four case studies of solving ODEs by the Laplace transform are used to demonstrate that, firstly, how much influence of the stereotype of the Laplace transform was on student's perception of utilizing this method to solve ODEs under different initial conditions; secondly, how the generalization of the Laplace transform for solving linear ODEs with generic initial conditions can not only break down the stereotype but also broaden the applicability of the Laplace transform for solving constant-coefficient linear ODEs. These case studies also show that the Laplace transform is even more robust for obtaining the specific solutions directly from the general solution once the initial values are assigned later. This implies that the generic initial conditions in the general solution obtained by the Laplace transform could be used as a point of control for some dynamic systems.

Daran robot, a reconfigurable, powerful, and affordable robotic platform for STEM education
Mingfeng Wang, Ruijun Liu, Chunsong Zhang and Zhao Tang
2021, 1(4): 299-308 doi: 10.3934/steme.2021019 +[Abstract](274) +[HTML](92) +[PDF](1136.64KB)

Robot and programming education, as a key part of STEM education, is attracting more and more attention in the education industry. In this paper, a novel open-sourced educational robotic platform, Daran robot, is proposed with key features in terms of reconfigurable, powerful, and affordable. As an entry-level robotic platform, the Daran robot consists of three individual robots, which are a Mecanum-wheeled robot, a three-wheeled robot, and a 4-DoF robot arm. Both graphical and Python programming environments are developed for students with different entry levels. Thanks to the reconfigurability, four classic constructions of the Daran robot are presented with corresponding case studies, based on which the students can practically learn basic knowledge of sensing and control technologies.

Reimagining multiplication as diagrammatic and dynamic concepts via cutting, pasting and rescaling actions
Christopher C. Tisdell
2021, 1(3): 170-185 doi: 10.3934/steme.2021013 +[Abstract](565) +[HTML](228) +[PDF](824.68KB)

Recently, Tisdell [48] developed some alternative pedagogical perspectives of multiplication strategies via cut-and-paste actions, underpinned via the principle of conservation of area. However, the ideas therein were limited to problems involving two factors that were close together, and so would not directly apply to a problem such as 17 × 93. The purpose of the present work is to establish what diagrammatic and dynamic perspectives could look like for these more complex classes of multiplication problems. My approach to explore this gap is through an analysis and discussion of case studies. I probe several multiplication problems in depth, and drill down to get at their complexity. Through this process, new techniques emerge that involve cut-and-paste and rescaling actions to enable a reimagination of the problem from diagrammatic and dynamic points of view. Furthermore, I provide some suggestions regarding how these ideas might be supplemented in the classroom through the employment of history that includes Leonardo Da Vinci's use of conservation principles in his famous notebooks. I thus establish a pedagogical framework that has the potential to support the learning and teaching of these extended problems from diagrammatic and dynamic perspectives. groups.

Centricities of STEM curriculum frameworks: Variations of the S-T-E-M Quartet
Tang Wee Teo, Aik Ling Tan, Yann Shiou Ong and Ban Heng Choy
2021, 1(3): 141-156 doi: 10.3934/steme.2021011 +[Abstract](908) +[HTML](266) +[PDF](765.35KB)

This commentary is an extension to the integrated S-T-E-M Quartet Instructional Framework that has been used to guide the design, implementation and evaluation of integrated STEM curriculum. In our discussion of the S-T-E-M Quartet, we have argued for the centrality of complex, persistent and extended problems to reflect the authenticity of real-world issues and hence, the need for integrated, as opposed to monodisciplinary, STEM education. Building upon this earlier work, we propose two additional variationsjsolution-centric and user-centric approachesjto the provision of integrated STEM curricular experiences to afford more opportunities that address the meta-knowledge and humanistic knowledge developments in 21st century learning. These variations to the S-T-E-M Quartet aims to expand the scope and utility of the framework in creating curriculum experiences for diverse profiles of learners, varied contextual conditions, and broad STEM education goals. Collectively, these three approachesjproblem-centric, solution-centric, and user-centricjcan afford more holistic outcomes of STEM education.

Neural network training in SCILAB for classifying mango (Mangifera indica) according to maturity level using the RGB color model
Eduardo Castillo-Castaneda
2021, 1(3): 186-198 doi: 10.3934/steme.2021014 +[Abstract](493) +[HTML](219) +[PDF](1403.07KB)

Industries that use fruits as raw materials must, at some point in the process, classify them to discard the unsuitable ones and thus ensure the quality of the final product. To produce mango nectar, it is necessary to ensure that the mango is mature enough to start the extraction of the nectar; however, sorting thousands of mangoes may require many people, who can easily lose attention and reduce the accuracy of the result. Such kind of decision can be supported by current Artificial Intelligence techniques. The theoretical details of the processing are presented, as well as the programming code of the neural network using SCILAB as a computer language; the code includes the color extraction from mango images. SCILAB programming is simple, efficient and does not require computers with large processing capacity. The classification was validated with 30 images (TIF format) of Manila variety mango; the mangoes were placed on a blue background to easily separate the background from the object of interest. Four and six mangoes were used to train the neural network. This application of neural networks is part of an undergraduate course on artificial intelligence, which shows the potential of these techniques for solving real and concrete problems.

A laser-cutting-centered STEM course for improving engineering problem-solving skills of high school students in China
Ruiheng Cai and Feng-kuang Chiang
2021, 1(3): 199-224 doi: 10.3934/steme.2021015 +[Abstract](507) +[HTML](239) +[PDF](1441.17KB)

STEM (science, technology, engineer, mathematics) education and engineering education are receiving an increasing amount of interest worldwide, but related research on the influence of STEM courses on students' engineering problem solving in China is scarce. Considering the rapid prototyping function of laser-cutting tools, this study was conducted to develop a STEM course based on laser cutting and to explore how the course affected high school students' engineering problem-solving abilities. A 9-week curriculum was implemented in a science, technology, and fabricating club of a high school in Zhejiang, China. The data were collected by pretest and posttest questionnaires and presentations of group assignments. The results were as follows. First, when presented with an engineering problem, the students demonstrated problem-solving abilities because they followed principles of engineering design, such as sketching, modeling and modifying. Second, while completing the assignment, the students proposed solutions with comprehensive factors in many aspects. They showed high-level thinking, such as consideration of the background, limiting conditions, and multidisciplinary knowledge, and they used technological tools to complete the task. However, some students ignored the assessment and redesign of their solutions. Further research could use a larger sample from different grades and explore how a STEM course combined with technology tools could influence students' high-level thinking skills.

Frustration in mathematical problem-solving: A systematic review of research
Kaitlin Riegel
2021, 1(3): 157-169 doi: 10.3934/steme.2021012 +[Abstract](654) +[HTML](289) +[PDF](317.45KB)

Emotions are an integral part of problem-solving, but must emotions traditionally conceptualised as "negative" have negative consequences in learning? Frustration is one of the most prominent emotions reported during mathematical problem-solving across all levels of learning. Despite research aiming to mitigate frustration, it can play a positive role during mathematical problem solving. A systematic review method was used to explore how frustration usually appears in students during mathematical problem-solving and the typical patterns of emotions, behaviours, and cognitive processes that are associated with its occurrence. The findings are mixed, which informs the need for further research in this area. Additionally, there are theories and qualitative findings about the potential positive role of frustration that have not been followed up with empirical investigations, which illuminate how our findings about negative emotions may be limited by the questions we ask as researchers. With the support of research, I consider how educators may directly or indirectly address rethinking the role and consequences of frustration during problem-solving with their students.

Inspiring and engaging high school students with science and technology education in regional Australia
Yujuan Li, Robert N. Hibbard, Peter L. A. Sercombe, Amanda L. Kelk and Cheng-Yuan Xu
2021, 1(2): 114-126 doi: 10.3934/steme.2021009 +[Abstract](897) +[HTML](315) +[PDF](1355.31KB)

In the last two decades, there was a continuing declining participation rate in STEM education, especially in secondary schools in regional Australia. To reverse this trend and inspire rural school students with science and technology education, both federal and state governments identify the new strategies to promote STEM engagement of school students. In this study, with Queensland government's Engaging Science funding support, Central Queensland University researchers collaborated with rural school to deliver a demonstration with hand-on experiences of drone technologies to students. The activity led students to understand the application of drone technologies in daily life, especially agriculture sector. These activities impressed local communities including both teachers and students by demonstrating real-world problem-solving skills, with increasing over 25% participating students' interest in STEM education. This also leads more future collaboration opportunities to deliver other projects to supporting rural schools' STEM education. Future challenge for conducting these activities would be preparing the activity materials that fit the learning style and time schedule for different knowledge levels of students.

Good practices of delivery and teaching leadership for online educators in technical disciplines: A perspective
Tasadduq Imam
2021, 1(2): 92-103 doi: 10.3934/steme.2021007 +[Abstract](595) +[HTML](400) +[PDF](384.01KB)

While there are works on best practices in teaching, there is a lack of literature that concerns the associated leadership aspect. However, contemporary online educators largely play the role of leaders consciously or unconsciously. Further, STEM and technical social science subjects like finance can be related to a substantial cognitive load if instructions are poorly designed, and more so in an online context where students and educators may not have a close connection. This perspective article, drawing on the author's own experience as a successful online educator with consistently high student satisfaction scores and multiple teaching awards and referring to literature, conceptualizes good online teaching practices in technical disciplines across two dimensions – virtual leadership and cognitive load management. The perspective then suggests strategies particularly applicable in technical disciplines to achieve satisfactory learning outcomes. It is acknowledged that online delivery and style of teaching adopted by educators can be subjective and dependent on context. However, the practices suggested, including communicating expectations, developing trust-relationship with students, adaptations beyond conventional teaching and textbook, and designing and sequencing resources while considering cognitive load management, may positively impact online students' learning experience in STEM and technical social science disciplines.

Unification of the common methods for solving the first-order linear ordinary differential equations
William Guo
2021, 1(2): 127-140 doi: 10.3934/steme.2021010 +[Abstract](513) +[HTML](275) +[PDF](343.97KB)

A good understanding of the mathematical processes of solving the first-order linear ordinary differential equations (ODEs) is the foundation for undergraduate students in science and engineering programs to progress smoothly to advanced ODEs and/or partial differential equations (PDEs) later. However, different methods for solving the first-order linear ODEs are presented in various textbooks and resources, which often confuses students in their choice of the method for solving the ODEs. This special tutorial note presents the practices the author used to address such confusions in solving the first-order linear ODEs for students engaged in the bachelorette engineering studies at a regional university in Australia in recent years. The derivation processes of the four commonly adopted methods for solving the first-order linear ODEs, including three explicit methods and one implicit method presented in many textbooks, are presented first, followed by the logical interconnections that unify these four methods to clarify student's confusions on different presentations of the procedures and the solutions in different sources. Comparisons among these methods are also made.

Embedding opportunities for participation and feedback in large mathematics lectures via audience response systems
Christopher C. Tisdell
2021, 1(2): 75-91 doi: 10.3934/steme.2021006 +[Abstract](818) +[HTML](309) +[PDF](495.64KB)

The purpose of this work is to interpret the experiences of students when audience response systems (ARS) were implemented as a strategy for teaching large mathematics lecture groups at university. Our paper makes several contributions to the literature. Firstly, we furnish a basic model of how ARS can form a teaching and learning strategy. Secondly, we examine the impact of this strategy on student attitudes of their experiences, focusing on the ability of ARS to: assess understanding; identify strengths and weaknesses; furnish feedback; support learning; and to encourage participation. Our findings support the position that there is a place for ARS as part of a strategy for teaching and learning mathematics in large groups.

Mathematics skills and STEM multidisciplinary literacy: Role of learning capacity
Usman Ghani, Xuesong Zhai and Riaz Ahmad
2021, 1(2): 104-113 doi: 10.3934/steme.2021008 +[Abstract](561) +[HTML](388) +[PDF](379.75KB)

Previous studies highlighted the role of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education in the development of mathematical skills while how mathematical skills influence STEM multidisciplinary literacy is under researched. Therefore, the purpose of current study is to explore the significance of mathematical skills (spatial imagination ability, calculation ability, and reasoning ability) in STEM multidisciplinary literacy. Further, to better understand the relationship between mathematical skills and STEM multidisciplinary literacy, students learning capacities was investigated as a mechanism. The theoretical findings of the study show that spatial imagination ability, calculation ability, and reasoning ability positively linked with STEM multidisciplinary literacy. Additionally, the findings show that students learning capabilities mediate the relationship between mathematical skills and STEM multidisciplinary literacy. Future directions of the study are also discussed.

The trifecta for curriculum sustainability in Australian universities
William Guo, Wei Li, Roland Dodd and Ergun Gide
2021, 1(1): 1-16 doi: 10.3934/steme.2021001 +[Abstract](848) +[HTML](381) +[PDF](438.34KB)

Commercialization and internationalization of tertiary education has opened a new way for universities to grow and make more profit. This in turn has supported sustainable growth of the higher education sector for the last three decades in developed countries. Curricula offered by accredited tertiary institutions must meet the quality standards set by both the governmental agencies and the professional accreditation bodies. These programs must also provide graduates with employment opportunities. Hence, quality and employment opportunities are the two key factors for sustainability of any degree program offered by tertiary institutions. However, changes in regulations and policies by the national government sometimes play a vital role in creating new programs, and maintaining or disestablishing some existing programs offered by institutions in the nation. These changes are not controlled by individual institutions, which has become the third unpredictable factor in curriculum creation and/or sustainability. Using the journey of a new master's program in information technology (IT) in an Australian university as a case study, we explore how this third factor impacted on the initialization, creation, and short life of this program primarily targeting international students in the mid-2000s. We then extend our discussion to the implications of the recent changes to tertiary tuitions from 2021 by the Australian Government on the sustainable future of the Australian tertiary education sector on a broad scale.

The Virtual reality electrical substation field trip: Exploring student perceptions and cognitive learning
Erdem Memik and Sasha Nikolic
2021, 1(1): 47-59 doi: 10.3934/steme.2021004 +[Abstract](885) +[HTML](469) +[PDF](558.8KB)

COVID19 has disrupted many higher education's learning experiences, including those related to work integrated learning. This included the cancelling of the annual electrical engineering field trip to a local electrical substation. Field trips provides students an opportunity to connect their classroom learning with industry relevant engaging experiences. While virtual reality (VR) alternatives to electrical substations have been implemented and researched, the focus has been on the innovation and not on the educational benefits. The impact on learning is not well documented and understood. To address this gap an experimental study is conducted on fifty electrical engineering students at the University of Wollongong to determine if a VR replica of an electrical substation can provide an equal or better learning and student experience compared to traditional methods. A successful finding would provide confidence to implement such alternatives for situations that include: addressing COVID disruptions; for students that miss the field trip; and for providers that don't have the funds or resources to visit a substation. It was found that the VR substation simulation provided a comparable student experience and stronger cognitive learning benefits than traditional methods. Further research is needed to explore learning impact beyond the cognitive domain.

Innovation event model for STEM education: A constructivism perspective
Changyan Di, Qingguo Zhou, Jun Shen, Li Li, Rui Zhou and Jiayin Lin
2021, 1(1): 60-74 doi: 10.3934/steme.2021005 +[Abstract](921) +[HTML](433) +[PDF](688.2KB)

STEM education aims to cultivate innovative talents by improving students' ability to comprehensively apply interdisciplinary knowledge in solving practical problems. This paper first develops an innovation event model through the analysis of 50 historical innovation events that can be traced back to whole human history. The model divides the realization process of those innovation events into four steps: 1) pointing out a problem, 2) proposing solutions to the problem, 3) concrete implementation of those solutions, and 4) iterative modification process. And then, the relationship between innovation event model and STEM education is established from the perspectives of subject integration and constructivism of STEM education. Based on this model, we can understand some key issues in the implementation of STEM education from a top-down view, including the nature of STEM education, the knowledge integration model, and the relationship between subject-specific education and integrated education. This will help to gradually improve our cognition and understanding of STEM education, so as to achieve its initial goal of integrated and innovative education. This article will contribute to a holistic rethinking about how to renovate STEM education in different levels of schools and colleges, equipped with such an innovation event model.

Redundancy understanding and theory for robotics teaching: Application on a human finger model
Med Amine Laribi and Saïd Zeghloul
2021, 1(1): 17-31 doi: 10.3934/steme.2021002 +[Abstract](748) +[HTML](370) +[PDF](1148.22KB)

This paper introduces the concept of redundancy in robotics to students in master degree based on a didactic approach. The definition as well as theoretical description related to redundancy are presented. The example of a human finger is considered to illustrate the redundancy with biomechanical point of view. At the same time, the finger is used to facilitate the comprehension and apply theoretical development to solve direct and inverse kinematics problems. Three different tasks are considered with different degree of redundancy. All developments are implemented under Matlab and validated in simulation on CAD software.

Interactive MATLAB based project learning in a robotics course: Challenges and achievements
Lotfi Romdhane and Mohammad A. Jaradat
2021, 1(1): 32-46 doi: 10.3934/steme.2021003 +[Abstract](949) +[HTML](462) +[PDF](1212.87KB)

This paper illustrates the conducted efforts for deploying an interactive project-based learning for robotics course using MATLAB. This project is part of a first course on robotics at the graduate level. The course combines both the theoretical and practical aspects to achieve its goals. The course consists of a set of laboratory sessions ends with a class project, these labs experimentally illustrate the modeling, simulation, path-planning and control of the Robot, using the robotics toolbox under MATLAB tools as well as physical interaction with the different robot platforms. The interaction between the student and the physical robot platforms is finally addressed in the class project; in this project, two tasks are considered. The first one is to control a 5DoF robot manipulator to perform a pick and place task. Initially the task is simulated under MATLAB robotics toolbox; the robot is commended to pick objects from initially known poses and stacks them in target poses. Furthermore, the robot manipulator in the second part of the project, with the aid of a vision system, is commended to work as an autonomous robotic arm that picks up colored objects, and then places them in different poses, based on their identified colors. The demonstrated results from the course evolution and assessment tools reflect the benefits of high-level deployment of robot platform in interactive project based learning to increase the students' performance in the course, about 100% and 75% of the student groups successfully completed the required tasks in the project first part and second part respectively.



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