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REESP Report Summary

Project ID: 629388
Funded under: FP7-PEOPLE
Country: Ireland

Final Report Summary - REESP (Re-Engineering Europe's STEM Pipeline)

This project set out to transfer knowledge with 3 components: (1) research on diversity, PBL [Problem-Based Learning], and phenomenological methodologies, (2) refinement and up scaling of RoboSlam [robot-building workshops for children and teens], and (3) development of a new Master’s program to infuse cutting-edge research and pedagogy into engineering curricula worldwide. (IIF Grant Agreement, Part B, 2014)

The overall aim of the project was to address issues relating to the shortage of engineers in the European Union and the lack of diversity among engineering education students. Two solutions to these problems, while easily identified, are notoriously difficult to achieve: increase the number of female students in engineering programmes and retain a far higher percentage of those students who do enter engineering programmes. There have been many initiatives, both educational and promotional, at European and national levels to achieve these goals but considering the level of resources invested, the outcomes have been relatively modest. This project aimed to contribute to these solutions in three ways:
1) Gain a better understanding of the experiences and perceptions of female students in engineering education.
2) Develop student-centred, interactive, and pedagogically sound learning activities that promote STEM among primary and second-level students, and change students’ and the general public’s perceptions of STEM disciplines and careers.
3) Enhance the education of engineering educators to ensure they have the required knowledge and understanding of pedagogy and curriculum design, and their implications for attracting and retaining a diverse engineering education student population.

Overall, a greater and deeper understanding of the experiences of female students is being achieved through the phenomenological research study. The education of engineering educators is being achieved through transfer-of-knowledge and curriculum design, and findings from the phenomenological research study are being used to inform the development and enhancement of a pedagogical STEM promotion initiative: RoboSlam robot-building workshops for children and teenagers. This initiative uses the project-driven collaborative pedagogy known as Problem-Based Learning (PBL) to engage and motivate students at all levels of education. A final but important aspect of the project has been to disseminate and promote these activities among all stakeholders. Through these four components, the IFF project is contributing to the project’s five stated objectives:
• Build understanding of factors that affect diversity in engineering education
• Attract a wide diverse group of students to engineering
• Retain more engineering majors
• Engage engineers, teachers, and corporate partners in Problem-Based Learning
• Create a Master’s degree curriculum in engineering education

The International Incoming Fellow experienced a wide array of training, transfer-of-knowledge, and outreach activities over the course of the 24-month project, focused around issues of “Re-Engineering Europe’s STEM Pipeline” through the project known as REESP. The project was coordinated out of Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and major activities included:
• Assisting with implementation of a year-long Problem-Based Learning module within the Institution’s new common first-year curriculum for all honours (four-year) Bachelor of Engineering students.
• Expanding upon past experiences of teaching architecture by co-teaching engineering projects (e.g., Energy Cube) with multi-disciplinary teams of lecturers and helping them implement proven PBL techniques.
• Leading teams of lecturers from the new PBL module in reviewing literature, collecting and analysing data, writing conference papers, and reporting outcomes of the new module.
• Developing Master’s degree curriculum proposals in the area of engineering education research in several different formats (Master of Arts, Master of Science, Master of Philosophy) that have been provided to the institution for adoption.
• Building upon the institution’s efforts to work toward gender equality by conducting research, offering advice, and compiling reports.
• Formally supervising one new PhD student in the area of learning sciences / engineering education research, under the guidance of the IIF supervisor.
• Helping coordinate and conduct a series of workshops for the CREATE research group (making Contributions to Research in Engineering and Applied Technologies).
• Developing skills in phenomenology by collecting interview data from 47 female students from engineering and technology courses in Poland (n=11), Portugal (n=11), and Ireland (n=24).
• Conducting interviews with 22 of 24 female students enrolled in the inaugural year of the new common first-year programme and used this to recommend improvements to the programme.
• Transcribing an extremely large dataset and conducting detailed analysis and organizing and preparing this dataset for future reporting.
• Attending research training sessions offered by the institution and organizations in Dublin.
• Attending dozens of conferences to network, present, and learn about the field.
• Authoring or co-authoring more than a dozen grant proposals, many of which received funding, and others that will be refined and re-submitted in the coming year.
• Learning about project management by overseeing financial aspects of the REESP project under the guidance of the research supervisor.
• Publishing her first journal article in the field of engineering education, the International Journal of Engineering Education, on the topic of PBL.
• Learning about research impact and establishing the online records (i.e., ORCID) necessary to create and grow a research impact rating.
• Maintaining three blogs as a form of outreach to the public, one on research (, a second on engineering and robotics (, and a third on photography (
• Having IIF research citied in the Irish Times and IIF outreach work featured on two Irish Television channels, Irish national radio, and numerous online and print outlets.
• Conducting dozens of outreach activities ranging from hosting a booth at ReserachNightDublin, to providing workshops through the STEMettes organization headquartered in London, to speaking at the Lean-In STEM conference in Warsaw, to organizing RoboSlam robot-building train-the-trainer programmes and workshops for many hundred participants (please see the Dissemination report for detailed information).
• Registering in the European Commission’s Expert database, serving as an expert evaluator for COFUND proposals (2015) and being placed on the list of probable reviewers for the Environmental panel for Marie Curie Individual Fellowship applications (2016).
• Serving for the first time as a team chair for two professional accreditation visits by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) in the USA, and receiving training and formal mentorship for this role.
• Submitting applications for research and teaching positions to allow this International Incoming Fellow to move to Europe permanently in order to keep contributing her skills here.
• Securing short-term contracts for work following the IIF, including teaching a module for a School of Education, authoring a gender-related grant proposal for DIT, and being invited to deliver a workshop on PBL for engineering and architecture staff in Stockholm at KTH.
• Reporting the design and the initial findings of the phenomenological study through multiple conferences in Europe and the United States, such as A phenomenological study of women’s experiences of receiving family support when studying STEM subjects at technical institutes in Ireland and Portugal accepted for presentation in September 2016 by the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI).
• Serving as reviewer for top-tier journals in the field of engineering education (e.g., JEE) and multiple conferences (e.g., PAEE, SEFI), and being invited to serve as an Associate Editor for proposed special focus issue of IEEE Transactions in Education.
• Advising and co-authoring a manuscript now under review for a special focus issue of EJEE on Project-based group-work: an enabler for inclusivity in an engineering programme in Ireland (authors Ní Fhloinn, E., Beagon, Ú, Sheridan, D, & Chance, S. M.).
• Preparing a manuscript draft on Implications for education policy: A comparative study of women’s experiences in engineering and physics education in Ireland, Poland, Portugal, and the Middle East and presenting portions of the draft paper at the Joint conference of Irish Social Sciences Platform (ISSP) and National Economic and Social Council (NESC) in Dublin, Ireland as well as 2016 Lean-In STEM conference on “Womens’ potential for Science and Technology” in Warsaw, Poland and the upcoming Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) conference in Columbus, Ohio.

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Record Number: 189534 / Last updated on: 2016-10-06
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