In FY 2016, the Directorates for Engineering (ENG), Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) and Education and Human Resources (EHR) are continuing a program aligned with the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) framework: REvolutionizing engineering and computer science Departments (herein referred to as RED). This funding opportunity enables engineering and computer science departments to lead the nation by successfully achieving significant sustainable changes necessary to overcome longstanding issues in their undergraduate programs and educate inclusive communities of engineering and computer science students prepared to solve 21st-century challenges.
In 2014, ENG launched an initiative, the Professional Formation of Engineers (PFE), to create and support an innovative and inclusive engineering profession for the 21st century. At the same time, in 2014, NSF launched the agency-wide Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) framework, which is a comprehensive effort to accelerate improvements in the quality and effectiveness of undergraduate education in all STEM fields. The RED program was first offered in FY 2015 as a PFE initiative aligned with the IUSE framework. Additional programs have been created within the IUSE framework across NSF, such as the IUSE: EHR program within EHR.
Even as demographic and regional socio-economic factors affect engineering and computer science departments in unique ways, there are certain tenets of sustainable change that are common across institutions. For instance, the development and engagement of the entire faculty within a department are paramount to the process, and they must be incentivized. Departmental cultural barriers to inclusion of students and faculty from different backgrounds must be identified and addressed. Finally, coherent technical and professional threads must be developed and woven across the four years, especially (1) in the core technical courses of the middle two years, (2) in internship opportunities in the private and public sectors, and (3) in research opportunities with faculty. These and other threads aim to ensure that students develop deep knowledge in their discipline more effectively and meaningfully, while at the same time building their capacities for 21st-century and “T-shaped” professional skills, including design, leadership, communication, understanding historical and contemporary social contexts, lifelong learning, professional ethical responsibility, creativity, entrepreneurship, and multidisciplinary teamwork. It is expected that, over time, the awardees of this program will create knowledge concerning sustainable change in engineering and computer science education that can be scaled and adopted nationally across a wide variety of academic institutions. The research on departmental change that results from these projects should inform change more broadly across the STEM disciplines.
Note: The RED program is offered in alignment with the NSF-wide undergraduate STEM education initiative, Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE). More information about IUSE can be found in the Introduction of this solicitation. Prospective PIs are encouraged to consider the IUSE: EHR program for projects that are outside the scope of RED (see https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=505082). Specifically, the Institutional and Community Transformation (ICT) track promotes innovative approaches to using research to catalyze change that addresses challenges across and within institutions (institutional transformation), as well as within and across specific disciplines (community transformation). Prospective PIs are strongly discouraged from submitting identical or substantially similar proposals to RED and IUSE: EHR.
The Principal Investigator(s) must be a department chair/head (or equivalent) to establish institutional accountability. Additionally, there must be a RED team that includes (at a minimum) an expert in engineering education or computer science education research, who can ground the research plan in the literature, and a social science expert who can evaluate department dynamics and monitor change processes. The social scientist must have expertise to advise on strategies for developing a culture of change and on strategies for creating meaningful collective ownership of the effort among faculty, students, and staff.