Research Agenda

The DeBoer Lab is motivated to understand how we can promote equity and success for diverse engineering students around the world. Specifically we are interested in:

INTERNATIONAL & COMPARATIVE ENGINEERING EDUCATION POLICY

What effects do local, national, and international engineering education policies have on the recruitment and training of diverse engineering students?

SOCIAL CONTEXT AND STUDENT BACKGROUND FACTORS OF EDUCATION

How do Individual (gender, race/ethnicity), Family (economic, socio-cultural status), and Institutional (classroom, school, community composition) factors intersect in the education of engineering students?

TECHNOLOGY USE IN PROVIDING LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES FOR DIVERSE STUDENTS

Are there technologies that are effective in educating engineering students in low-resource contexts?  What role do MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) play in reaching these students?. 

Implementation & Experimentation

Research findings from the DeBoer lab are implemented immediately in Dr. DeBoers sections of Purdue's ENGR131 First Year Engineering course. Effectiveness of classroom implementation is measured both quantitatively and qualitatively. The data from these experiments guides the research of the DeBoer Lab.  In this way, Teaching and Research work synergystically in a recursive cycle.


Current Research Projects

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Higher Education in Emergencies

In a world where nearly 34,000 people are forcibly displaced every day (UNHCR Report, 2015), initiatives to improve their living conditions are more important than ever before. By offering contextually aligned educational programs, engineering education can serve as a powerful tool to empower students with professional skills to improve their living conditions. In this research, our research team is developing a curricular structure and educational framework  to teach introductory engineering course for tertiary students in refugee settings driven by social and professional development.


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Tumaini Tech Project

Kenya has a youth bubble, growing economy, and untapped human potential. At the same time, there is a huge need for more engineers (The Guardian, 2016) to drive development (RAE, 2016). An estimated 300,000 "street youth" (children who work/sleep on the streets) live in Kenya (UNICEF, 2001). This population is difficult to support because of the socioemotional traumas they have faced, and they may be better served in alternative education centers. We strive to co-create a program that enables former “street youth” in Eldoret, Kenya to learn engineering skills and problem-solving processes and then apply these tools to local development challenges in their community. We organize and supplement existing open educational resources (OERs), employ co-generation of the program along with the students and local leaders, deploy a novel tablet platform, and enable students to manage local problems.