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Teaching Innovation Grants

This internal grants program is offered on an annual basis, typically with a February deadline. In 2021, the Morgan Teaching and Learning Center, the Office of Undergraduate Studies, the Academic Technology Center (ATC), and the Educational Development Council (EDC) provided more than $150,000 in funding to three types of grants aimed at supporting innovation in undergraduate and graduate education:

  1. Faculty Learning Community Grants: A Faculty Learning Community (FLC) is a small group of faculty (and staff, as appropriate) from multiple disciplines engaging in inquiry and action around a central theme. 
  2. Independent Project Grants: These grants support bold new initiatives that enrich learning in classrooms, laboratories, and projects, in undergraduate or graduate education. This grant mechanism is intended for applicants whose project does not fit with a FLC theme and for those who cannot or do not wish to commit to the regular interaction of a FLC.  
  3. Summer Sandbox Grants: These grants support individual faculty or groups of faculty who design and test new approaches to teaching and advising in an undergraduate summer course or project, using summer as a learning laboratory for the academic year. 

Grant Recipients 2021

Faculty Learning Community Grants 

Ungrading:  Improving Pedagogy and Increasing Equity Through Alternative Forms of Student Evaluation

Ryan Madan (HUA); Geoff Pfeifer (DIGS/HUA); Aarti Madan (HUA); 
Zoe Reidinger (BME); Gillian Smith (CS/IMGD); Sarah Stanlick (DIGS)

Our FLC tries to reimagine how nontraditional forms of student evaluation can positively impact student learning, motivation, equity, and engagement. The group will strive to uncover how newly popularized forms of “ungrading” (contract-based, labor-based, individual development plans, etc.) can best thrive in our WPI context. The diverse members of this FLC reflect our commitment to reimagine grading across the curriculum and across disciplines: from first-year GPS students to juniors doing their IQPs; from students in engineering to students in science, from those doing projects in humanities courses to those writing across the curriculum.

Transdisciplinary MQPs for Authentic Experiences 

Kris Billiar (BME); Renata Konrad (BUS); Rob Krueger (SSPS); Solomon Mensah (BME);
Elizabeth Lingo (BUS); Kyumin Lee (CS); Dirk Albrecht (BME)

The development of medical devices for developing and low-resource communities involves a transdisciplinary approach including engineering, business, and social science. The goal of this project is to develop systems and tools for “needsfinding” where business and social science students will gain a deeper understanding of technical/medical stakeholder needs and engineering students will learn to embrace broader problem and solution spaces than they would in a single-discipline group without either group being subservient to the other.

Independent Project Grants

Creating Pathways for a Gender-Inclusive Curriculum at WPI

Lindsay Davis (HUA); Francesca Bernardi (MA); Crystal Brown (SSPS); Michelle Ephraim (HUA);
Rebecca Moody (HUA); Zoe Reidinger (BME); Raisa Trubko (PH); Gillian Smith (IMGD)

This project will implement methods to help faculty develop gender-inclusive curricula across the disciplines at WPI. We define a gender-inclusive curriculum as one that addresses differences in students’ terminology, experiences, access to resources, and forms of structural inequality as they relate to assumptions about gender as well as race, class, ability, religion, sexual orientation, and other identities. This STEM-focused initiative has the potential to reach all students, faculty, and staff by fostering classroom experiences that highlight diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Creating High-Impact Activities and Assessments to Foster Global and Intercultural Learning

Esther Boucher-Yip(HUA); Althea Danielski(HUA); Ingrid Matos-Nin(HUA); Svetlana Nikitina(HUA);
Mohammed El Hamzaoui(HUA); Wen-Hua  Du(HUA); Aaron Sakulich(CEE); Courtney Kurlanska( DIGS)

This project is a collaborative effort to create a wide range of activities and model assignments that will help students engage successfully with local and global communities and with each other. Our goal is to create a digital repository of curated resources designed to foster global and intercultural learning in the STEAM classroom. We aim to pilot a system for students to document their global and intercultural learning and competency.

Active Learning Fellowship Program Development

Caitlin Keller ( ATC & MTLC)

This project is focused on the development of a comprehensive fellowship program to train and support faculty in implementing active learning methodologies. By collecting data through an in-depth literature review, conducting a needs analysis, surveys and conversations with stakeholders, and implementation of initial training modules with faculty, a pilot program will be created for a full-scale launch in Fall 2022 to increase effectiveness of teaching methods. Additional funding for continued support will be pursued through submitting an NSF-IUSE grant proposal.

Rigs of Color

Farley Chery (HUA/IMGD)

This project, spotlights representation in animation by providing high-quality resources to animation communities.  Rigs help animators turn 3D models from statues into living characters. Of the thousands available publicly, less than ten are identifiable minorities. Lack of diversity forces white as a default compromising students’ vision disallowing them to challenge the current unyieldingly repressive status quo. Promoting greater representation across ethnic heritages in animation, Rigs of Color pushes technical advances and artistic acumen to tackle these limiting factors in art.

Reality Imagined: Real-World Simulations to Teach Community-Based Research

John-Michael Davis (DIGS)

This project will develop a series of interactive classroom simulations that situate student teams in a hypothetical community-based research project and must navigate multi-faceted and multi-actor situations by making informed decisions through a “choose your own adventure” pedagogical model. These simulations can be adopted by faculty members who advise students conducting community-based research (e.g., IQP, MQP, GQP) to encourage students to reflect on their own biases, blind-spots, and myths of community while teaching the processes and complexities of community-engaged research.

Promoting Architectural Design Skills through Collaborative Learning Enabled by Augmented Reality

Soroush Farzin (CEE/AREN); Shichao Liu (CEE/AREN)

A critical challenge for today's Design and Architectural Engineering (AREN) World is improving and promoting team collaboration in developing more innovative and realistic scenarios for far more complex problems. Although the AREN curriculum emphasizes teamwork, design software's limitations resulted in more solo works. We hypothesize that the use of Augmented Reality will benefit the collaboration and teamwork during the design process, compared to the current standard practice, as well as improving students' spatial experience.

Developing a Mobile App for Free-Body Diagram Practice and Assessment

Sarah Wodin-Schwartz (ME)

This project will develop a mobile-based app to improve students’ abilities to visualize, draw, and analyze free-body diagrams. The current method for teaching this skill is hand drawing which results in a slow feedback process, disconnecting feedback from students’ original thought processes. The digital learning environment developed in this project will provide instantaneous formative feedback to all students and will utilize feminized game play techniques to focus on women throughout the design process.

Summer Sandbox Grants

Developing an Experiment with Virtual Connectivity

Ahmet Sabuncu (ME)

In this proposal, I aim to develop an evaporative cooler for teaching psychrometrics, namely thermodynamics of atmospheric air. Evaporative coolers   are widely used for air conditioning in dry and hot climates. While this setup will reside at WPI, one distinctive feature is that the setup will be virtually accessible to remote students to collect data and to control the setup.

Open Educational Video Resources for Computer Science

Joshua Cuneo (CS)

This project is part of an ongoing effort to generate OER video materials for WPI computer science classes. In particular, this project will focus on CS 4731: Computer Graphics. These materials will incorporate animations and coding demonstrations, will be tailored to WPI’s 7-week curriculum, and will be narrated by WPI computer science instructors. The videos will also be broad enough in scope to be applicable outside of WPI, and they will be publicly available online for educators around the world.

Creating Scenes using OBS Studio for Streaming Virtual Classroom over Zoom and other Platforms

Maqsood Mughal (ECE)

The idea behind this project is to improve student engagement and creating an environment that increases student participation during a virtual class. The goal is to deliver a high- performance real time video/audio capturing and mixing, creating scenes comprised of multiple sources including window captures, images, text, browser windows, multiple webcams, videos and much more. This will allow us to set-up number of scenes for a class on a given day one can switch between seamlessly via custom transitions.

Leveraging History to Teach Engineering

PI: Ahmet Sabuncu (ME) & Co-PI Maqsood Mughal (ECE)

We prepare open educational resources on historical background and socioeconomic impacts of technological inventions with this project. Learning about interesting stories behind inventions could incite curiosity and develop insight in students as most incredible technical innovations originated usually in interesting ways. We believe this lacking aspect in engineering education increases student engagement and facilitates learning.  

Calculus Lab Design

PI: Marcel Blais (MA) & Co-PI's Michael Johnson (MA); John Goulet (MA); Barry Posterro (MA)

The Math Department is seeking this grant to support the modernization of the calculus labs for 2 of the 4 primary WPI calculus courses, specifically MA 1023: Calculus 3 and MA 1024: Calculus 4 to establish a foundation in mathematical software essential to success in upper-level courses both in math and outside of math. 

Virtual Internship in Biomedical Engineering

PI: Olufunmilayo (Funmi) Ayobami (BME) & Co-PI's Kristen Billiar (BME); Solomon Mensah (BME)

The Virtual Internship in Biomedical Engineering (VIBE) program aims to increase access to minoritized students, through an 8-week team-based, virtual experience targeted to underrepresented and first-generation students. Culminating in a BME design deliverable focused on global health, students will gain hands-on experience with the biomedical design process, learn professional development skills, and engage with current biomedical faculty and professionals. The program will also provide a platform through which we will examine the experiences of underrepresented students with remote/hybrid learning.

Grammar-Flip for the ESL Writing Classroom

PI: Esther Boucher-Yip (HUA) & Co-PI Althea Danielski (HUA)

Using the flipped classroom as an instructional strategy, this project involves designing and building interactive online grammar modules for multilingual writers. These modules would be used to supplement the teaching of writing and improve students’ mastery of grammar and writing concepts. These self-paced activities would also serve as learning resources for student writers.

Novel Approaches to 3D Modeling and World Heritage Aesthetics

Farley Chery (CS)

Novel approaches for 3D modeling, applies traditional art concepts to digital sculpting. Traditional principles such as rhythm, blocking out and iterative evaluation, the course introduces speed sketching as integral to the process. Focusing on translating drawing principles into applicable methodologies for 3D, the pedagogy seeks to simplify learning 3D software, concentrating on the application of inclusive aesthetic across multiple projects. Student will be given historical context to style modern styles, to develop anti-racist aesthetics in character design.