Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (hereinafter referred to as RED) is designed to build upon previous efforts in engineering education research. Specifically, previous and ongoing evaluations of the NSF Engineering Education and Centers Division program and its predecessors, as well as those related programs in the Directorate of Education and Human Resources, have shown that prior investments have significantly improved the first year of engineering students’ experiences, incorporating engineering material, active learning approaches, design instruction, and a broad introduction to professional skills and a sense of professional practice – giving students an idea of what it means to become an engineer. Similarly, the senior year has seen notable change through capstone design experiences, which ask students to synthesize the technical knowledge, skills, and abilities they have gained with professional capacities, using reflective judgment to make decisions and communicate these effectively. However, this ideal of the senior year has not yet been fully realized, because many of the competencies required in capstone design, or required of professional engineers, are only partially introduced in the first year and not carried forward with significant emphasis through the sophomore and junior years.
The Directorates for Engineering (ENG), Education and Human Resources (EHR), and Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) have funded projects as part of the RED program, in alignment with the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) framework and Professional Formation of Engineers (PFE) initiative. These projects are designing revolutionary new approaches to engineering and computer science education, ranging from changing the canon of engineering to fundamentally altering the way courses are structured to creating new departmental structures and educational collaborations with industry. A common thread across these projects is a focus on organizational and cultural change within the departments, involving students, faculty, staff, and industry in rethinking what it means to provide an engineering program.
In order to continue to catalyze revolutionary approaches, while expanding the reach of those that have proved efficacious in particular contexts, the RED program supports two tracks: RED Innovation and RED Adaptation and Implementation (RED-A&I). RED Innovation projects will develop new, revolutionary approaches and change strategies that enable the transformation of undergraduate engineering education. RED Adaptation and Implementation projects will adapt and implement evidence-based organizational change strategies and actions to the local context, which helps propagate this transformation of undergraduate engineering education. Projects in both tracks will include consideration of the cultural, organizational, structural, and pedagogical changes needed to transform the department to one in which students are engaged, develop their technical and professional skills, and establish identities as professional engineers. The focus of projects in both tracks should be on the department’s disciplinary courses and program.