For over 15 years, Louisiana Tech’s College of Engineering and Science has been aggressively engaged in STEM education reform, including curricula redesign, K-12 interactions, and integration of entrepreneurship and engineering. Our Integrated STEM Education Research Center (ISERC) is a leader in reinventing engineering and science education to meet the regional, global, and national challenges of the 21st century.

Featured Research Projects

SFS Program

The CyberCorps SFS program is funded by a $3.5 million grant awarded by the National Science Foundation. The grant will be used to prepare future cybersecurity professionals for entry into the government workforce. For more information about the grant, go to our news page.

S-STEM Fast-Forward

The S-STEM grant is awarded by the NSF’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) and through Louisiana Tech University’s “Sophomore Fast-Forward: A Summer Bridge Program to Support Retention in Engineering” program. The goal of the grant is to increase the number of graduates entering the fields of science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM). Funds will provide for professional development, academic support, and mentoring programs.

Current Projects

Project: SFS@LaTech: Cyber Engineers & Scientists for our Future Funding: National Science Foundation DGE-1754048; 2018-2023; $3,531,750 Principal Investigator: Hisham Hegab Co-Principal Investigators: Sumeet Dua, Katie Evans, Miguel Gates, Jean Gourd SFS@LaTech is primarily a scholarship program to support 30 cyber engineering or computer science majors. The program provides the SFS Scholars with mentoring and research opportunities. Scholars are obligated to work for an approved U.S. Government organization following graduation.

Project: Cyber Discovery 1.0, 2.0 Funding: Principal Investigator: Co-Principal Investigators: Cyber Discovery 1.0, a professional development program for high school teachers, culminates in a week-long experience where student teams of rising sophomores participate in cyber-related challenges integrating disciplines such as engineering, computer science, English, history, mathematics, architecture, cryptography, and political science challenges. Curricular threads include history of cyberspace, ethical and social issues, citizenship, applications, and the need for and use of security in cyberspace. The Cyber Discovery 2.0 program is a scenario-based approach to security issues incorporating hands-on engineering and computer science labs, a cryptographic component, and a challenge integrating the techniques learned through the program. Cyber Discovery 2.0 provides high school juniors with a broader exposure to liberal arts, mathematics, and science in the context of cyber-security.

Project: STEM-Discovery Funding: NSF-TrackIII; 2014-2019; $749,000 Principal Investigator: Michael Khonsari Co-Principal Investigators: Kelly Crittenden, Heath Tims, David Hall Senior Personnel: Marisa Orr STEM-Discovery, a new program led by Louisiana Tech University, aims to directly engage high school teachers and students across Louisiana and to spark their interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The primary objective is to provide a foundation for research in effective teaching and learning through the creation of virtual modules centered on a project-driven STEM core. A major focus of the program will be to broaden the participation of underrepresented minority students. Over the next five years, the STEMDiscovery team will develop a sustainable, innovative and effective program to deliver STEM content that can be expanded and adopted throughout the State and the nation. The resulting program will equip high school teachers with the motivation and knowledge required to effectively incorporate STEM topics into their courses. To accomplish this, virtual teaching modules paired with STEM-Discovery camps and design competitions will be developed to facilitate the development of strong analytical skills, creativity, and a “can-do” spirit in students.

Project: Technology-Rich Transportation Engineering Projects Funding: SPTC; $131,627 Principal Investigator: Sanjay Tewari Co-Principal Investigators: David Hall, Norman Pumphrey, Raghava Kommalapati Senior Personnel: Marisa Orr

Project: OPES: Making the WeBWork Funding: National Science Foundation DUE-1244833; 2013-2016; $250,000 Principal Investigator: Katie Evans The purpose of OPES is to create an online library of engineering homework sets for integration into the existing WeBWorK open-source, digital homework system and determine the effect of online engineering homework on student learning. This project targets homework development for three core engineering courses – statics and strength of materials, circuits, and thermodynamics – that can be found in any engineering program across the country. Beyond homework implementation in existing courses, this project supports training and dissemination workshops to be held for engineering faculty from other universities and assessment of the impact of online homework in engineering.

Project: Creating a Culture of Success for Women in STEM Websites: Funding: National Science Foundation HRD-0930232; 2009-2015; $736,500 Principal Investigator: Jenna Carpenter Co-Principal Investigators: Patrick O’Neal, Despina Davis The ADVANCEing Faculty Program in the College of Engineering and Science (COES) at Louisiana Tech University strives to create a culture of success for women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) through a college-wide, systemic, sustainable approach. This approach provides a framework and resources to educate and enable all faculty to participate in a supportive work environment that enhances job satisfaction, research productivity, and retention. The goals of the ADVANCEing Faculty Program are to 1) strengthen the climate by reducing isolation of faculty, instituting faculty training and mentoring programs, and examining work-life policies; 2) increase retention of faculty through increased research successes, career networking, and exposure to role models; 3) enhance management training, as well as promotion and leadership opportunities, for faculty.

Project: Sophomore Fast-Forward: A Summer Bridge Program to Support Retention in Engineering Funding: National Science Foundation DUE# 1564768, 2016-2021, $999,234 Principal Investigator: Katie Evans Co-Principal Investigators: Marisa Orr, Mitzi Desselles, David Hall, and Heath Tims The overall objective of this project to increase engineering retention, leading to an increase in the number of STEM graduates prepared to enter the workforce and be successful. The program offers scholarships for rising sophomores who demonstrate academic talent and financial need. Support includes attendance in a full-time summer session in which students will take some of the required engineering and mathematics courses normally taken during the Fall semester. This approach will provide a smoother transition into more difficult engineering coursework for this at-risk group. This program will include professional and student development activities, as well as mentoring from faculty. Scholarships and support for low-income and academically talented students, who may not otherwise be able to obtain engineering degrees, will help to produce a well-trained STEM workforce that will contribute to the economic well-being of the nation. The project will investigate the hypothesis that encouraging talented but at-risk students to pursue statics during a full-time summer session will facilitate these at-risk students in overcoming this identified attrition point in the undergraduate engineering curriculum. Retaining more students in the critical sophomore transition will result in more STEM graduates. The cohorts of S-STEM Scholars will be mentored by a faculty team and participate in other support activities including industry field trips, professional development training, and team-building activities. The findings from the program will be disseminated widely to the STEM education community and will help to increase understanding of the attributes and practices of successful student scholarship and support programs for academically talented, low-income engineering students.

Prior Projects

Project: Cyber Discovery 2.0 Funding: NICERC/DHS; 2013-2014; $164,910 Principal Investigator: Jeremy Mhire Co-Principal Investigators: Heath Tims, Michael Swanbom

Project: Cyber Discovery 1.0 Funding: NICERC/DHS; 2013-2014; $294208 Principal Investigator: Michael Swanbom Co-Principal Investigators: Heath Tims, Jeremy Mhire Project: Cyber Discovery 2.0 & Curricula Development Funding: NICER/DHS; 2012-2013; $313,177 Principal Investigator: Heath Tims Co-Principal Investigators: Project: Cyber Science High School Course Development Funding: Cyber Innovation Center; 2010-2011; $24,000 Principal Investigator: Heath Tims Co-Principal Investigators:

Project: NASA Threads Funding: NASA #062462; 2009-2011; $1,400,000 Principal Investigator: Heath Tims Co-Principal Investigators: Danny Bell, Cathy Cox, Galen Turner NASA-Threads is a partnership between regional K-12 schools and Louisiana Tech University leading to improved high school student achievement in mathematics and science. The goal of the partnership is to better prepare students entering science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs at the university level. A new, challenging, interdisciplinary junior/senior-level high school physics curriculum was developed and is currently being implemented in 15 high schools in the region.

Project: Cyber K-12: Building a foundation for cyber education in North Louisiana Funding: U.S. Dept. of Education – FIE # U215K090140; 2009-2011; $951,000 Principal Investigator: Galen Turner Co-Principal Investigators: Heath Tims, Brian Etheridge Cyber K-12 is an expansion of LaTechSTEP in collaboration with the Cyber Innovation Center. Integrating STEM with humanities disciplines to develop meaningful professional development for high school teachers in the context of cyber. One of the thrusts of this project is Cyber Discovery which has been developed by a collaboration of math, science, engineering, and liberal arts faculty. The primary goal is to help teachers and students become better cyber-citizens who help rather than hinder security efforts by making them aware of the benefits and dangers of cyberspace. Two Teacher workshops are held each Spring followed by the week-long residential experience which exposes student- and teacher-participants to multiple topics of cyberspace including history of cyberspace, ethical and social issues, applications, and the need for and use of security in cyberspace. Faculty members from the College of Engineering and Science teamed up with the College of Liberal Arts to develop a residential camp experience aimed at high school teachers and students. During the summer of 2008, 30 high school students and 10 teachers, from throughout the region participated in Cyber Discovery, expanding to 48 students and 16 teachers in 2009 and 60 students with 20 teachers in 2010. The camp consisted of discussion sessions, hands-on engineering and computer science labs, a cryptographic treasure hunt, film sessions, and a final cyber challenge each of which integrated the history, ethical issues, applications, and theory behind cyberspace, security, and cryptography. Cyber Discovery is a total immersive experience for teacher and student teams. This project integrates numerous interdisciplinary experiences, as well as week-long challenges involving specific disciplines such as Engineering, Computer Science, Math (cryptography), English, History, and Political Science.  Funding from the Cyber K-12 grant allowed 3 universities in North Louisiana to implement and evaluate versions of the Cyber Discovery model at their institutions.

Project: STEM-Plus: Louisiana Tech’s Noyce Scholarship Program Funding: National Science Foundation DUE-0733825; 2008-2012; $749,980 Principal Investigator: Galen Turner Co-Principal Investigators: Dawn Basinger, Kelly Crittenden, Connie LaBorde, Jim Nelson STEM-Plus: Louisiana Tech University’s Noyce Scholarship Program has two major components that will yield increased numbers of certified teachers, in middle and high school mathematics and science. One component is an undergraduate program focused on recruiting current STEM majors into the teaching profession. The students in this program participate in current educational research initiatives at Louisiana Tech, and, during their senior year, enroll concurrently in graduate education courses at Louisiana Tech. Noyce Undergraduate Scholars will then earn the Master of Arts in Teaching degree during the year immediately following graduation with a B.S. degree in engineering, mathematics, chemistry, or physics. The second component of our program is a graduate program. This Noyce Graduate Scholars component engages STEM-professionals in a one-year graduate program that provides alternate certification in the state of Louisiana. The major objective of the Louisiana Tech Noyce Scholars Program, both undergraduate and graduate components, is to produce 21 highly qualified teachers through a dual matriculation program resulting in teacher certification and a master’s degree with priority placements in partner schools in Louisiana.

Project: Cyber Discovery (pilot) Funding: Cyber Innovation Center & Louisiana Tech University Research; 2008-2008; $63,500 Principal Investigator: Heath Tims Co-Principal Investigators: Project: Louisiana Tech University’s STEM Talent Expansion Program (LaTechSTEP) Funding: National Science Foundation DUE-0622462; 2007-2012; $999,847 Principal Investigator: Jim Nelson Co-Principal Investigators: Kelly Crittenden, Galen Turner Louisiana Tech’s STEM Talent Expansion Program (LaTechSTEP) is a partnership between the College of Engineering & Science and fifteen high schools in Louisiana and Texas. There are two primary components of the program. One component is professional development for high school teachers that demonstrates engineering applications of the mathematics and science principles they teach in their high school classes. These professional development workshops are followed by Discovery Weekends where university faculty and high school teachers collaborate as a team to present engineering design projects to high school students. The second component of LaTechSTEP is our Freshman Enrichment Program (FrEP). FrEP was designed to help prepare and support students as they begin their engineering or science university curriculum. It is targeted toward students who need additional mathematics preparation prior to beginning our freshman Integrated Engineering Curriculum (see Living with the Lab below). FrEP includes a contextual-based college algebra course coupled with an engineering problem-solving class.  Community building activities, study skills development and mentoring support are also provided.

Project: Louisiana Tech’s S-STEM Scholarship Program Funding: National Science Foundation DUE-0631083; 2007-2011; $500,000 Principal Investigator: Jim Nelson Co-Principal Investigators: Jenna Carpenter, Kelly Crittenden, Galen Turner The S-STEM scholarship program provides financial support for students who participate in our Freshman Enrichment Program (FrEP). FrEP is targeted toward students who need additional mathematics preparation prior to beginning our freshman Integrated Engineering Curriculum (seeLiving with the Lab below) or our Integrated Science Curriculum. FrEP includes a contextual-based college algebra course coupled with an engineering problem-solving class. The S-STEM scholarship is available for the entire freshman year for students who maintain at least a 3.0 GPA and make adequate progress toward a STEM degree.

Project: Living with the Lab Website: Funding: National Science Foundation DUE-0618288; 2007-2010; $488,000 Principal Investigator: David Hall Living with the Lab has become our signature freshman engineering program. Living with the Lab is an educational approach that boosts experiential learning through student ownership of inexpensive laboratory equipment. Each freshman student purchases a robotics kit along with a collection of tools, software and supplies to provide a platform for laboratory and design projects. Student ownership of laboratory equipment expands the scope and complexity of projects that can be undertaken with large groups and provides a mechanism for building the knowledge, skills and spirit that lead to innovation. This series of freshman engineering courses includes the design and construction of a process control system for maintaining temperature and salinity in a small container of water.  Fundamental engineering concepts are taught in the context of this overarching design project.  As a part of the project, students design, fabricate and calibrate a resistance temperature detector, conductivity meter, and pump. Living with the Lab culminates in the creation of a student-designed and fabricated smart product.

Project: Venture Enhancement Teams (VETs) for Commercialization of University Intellectual Property (In Collaboration with Louisiana Tech’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Information Technology) Funding: National Science Foundation IIP-0650130; 2007 – 2010; $600,000 Principal Investigator: Les Guice Co-Principal Investigators: Rich Kordal, Jim Nelson, Davy Norris, Jon Pratt This NSF Partnership for Innovation project is a collaborative effort between Louisiana Tech’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Information Technology (CEnIT), the College of Business, and the College of Engineering and Science’s Integrated STEM Education Research Center (ISERC).   The goal of the project is to provide a comprehensive “package” to licensees to significantly reduce the risk of commercializationThe package consists of an initial working prototype along with business or marketing plans, as well as the requisite IP for market entry. This work is done through the novel creation of Venture Enhancement Teams (VETs) implemented within the College of Engineering and Science’s recently created multidisciplinary capstone design program (see EMPaCT below). NSF-PFI funds are matched with public funds of the University or the state, private funds from the University Research Foundation “Prototype Fund”, local angel networks, or interested business partners. The project includes a Triage Team of 5 to 10 members to select projects whose risk profile will be enhanced through prototype development, additional practical business planning and IP collaboration. Venture Enhancement Teams are becoming an established and essential element of our technology transfer infrastructure, and a driving force behind the innovation enterprise of north Louisiana.

Project: Engineering High Student Achievements in Mathematics Funding: LaBoR; 2007-2008; $286,595 Principal Investigator: Heath Tims Co-Principal Investigators: Project: Entrepreneurship through Multidisciplinary Projects and Collaborative Teams (EMPaCT) Funding: National Science Foundation DUE-0536082; 2006-2008; $135,000 Principal Investigator: Kelly Crittenden Co-Principal Investigators: Jim Nelson, Debbie Inman The goal of EMPaCT was to support multidisciplinary design experiences for engineering, business and other students and to promote a culture of entrepreneurship throughout the university and region. The multidisciplinary engineering design course developed under this grant combines the talents and special skills of business and engineering students as well as students from other disciplines to form horizontally and vertically integrated teams. These teams focus on developing commercially viable products and/or services that will solve problems identified by industry partners, Louisiana Tech faculty, and the students themselves. This course, along with an Innovative Product Design course and an Innovative Venture Research course, have become the foundation for several other efforts to enhance entrepreneurship and commercialization in our region (see, for example, the Venture Enhancement Teams project described above).

Project: Integrating the Sciences and Science Education in the Early College Curriculum Funding: National Science Foundation DUE-0311481; 2003 – 2006; Principal Investigator: Jenna Carpenter Co-Principal Investigators: Dawn Basinger, Wes Colgan Inspired by both the success of and their own involvement with our Integrated Engineering Curriculum (see below), a group of mathematics, science, and education faculty (residing in three different colleges within the university: Engineering and Science, Applied and Natural Sciences, and Education) began meeting in 2001 to develop a freshman and sophomore Integrated Science Curriculum (ISC). This curriculum borrowed successful aspects of the Integrated Engineering Curriculum, such as cohorts of students, integration of content (primarily focused on the six introductory science labs in biology, chemistry and physics) and faculty communication. The ISC, however, had other goals more specific to its intended audience, such as an emphasis on the scientific method (versus engineering design) and creating a community of learners from the science and science education majors who generally hail from smaller programs and more isolated experiences.

Project: Institutionalization of an Integrated Engineering Curriculum at Louisiana Tech Funding: National Science Foundation EEC-997279; 1999 – 2001; $647,856 Principal Investigator: Bernd Schroder Co-Principal Investigators: Jim Nelson Starting with a pilot freshman curriculum in 1997 and expanded to include a sophomore curriculum in 1998, the IEC was fully implemented in 1999 with support from an NSF Action Agenda grant. This new curriculum was the result of a series of in-depth discussions between faculty members involved in teaching chemistry, engineering, mathematics, and physics. The goal of the curriculum was to integrate the engineering, mathematics, chemistry and physics courses at the freshman and sophomore levels. The engineering courses incorporated design projects and emphasized skills development in teaming, communication, laboratory experiences, and problem-solving. Each course was structured such that the material taught in mathematics was applied in the freshman chemistry course and implemented in the freshman engineering course, often in the same week. The pilot program was started with cohorts of approximately 40 students enrolled in the same block of math, engineering and science courses. The engineering and science faculty teaching each cohort of students met once a week to coordinate lesson plans and report on student progress. By 1999 all engineering majors were enrolled in the curriculum. The curriculum showed significant improvement in student performance and retention to graduation over the previous traditional curriculum. In 2005, faculty began piloting Living with the Lab (see above), the second generation Integrated Engineering Curriculum.