November 11, 2015 – SparkFun Electronics, based in Niwot, Colorado, has partnered with the Department of Education to provide “Introduction 2 Design” courses for collegiate and high school levels. The curricula were co-authnored with Jacob Segil, a faculty member at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s College of Engineering.
The semester-long courses evolved from a longstanding collaboration between SparkFun and the Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory (ITLL) at CU Boulder.
The ITLL has shown improved retention rates in the College of Engineering for students who take a particular class called “First Year Projects” (GEEN 1400) over a 20-year dataset. Motivated by these findings, SparkFun and Segil hoped to provide a similar hands-on education experience to engineering students who may not have a similar facility.
Both the collegiate and high school versions of the curriculum underwent a pilot run during the spring 2015 semester. The collegiate course was piloted at CU Boulder by Professor Michael Walker in a course including engineering students as well as students from non-engineering majors. Every student showed tremendous growth in both technical skills (soldering, programming, manufacturing, etc.) and design-based thinking. The high school course was piloted at Centarus High School in Lafayette, Colorado, in several classrooms. All students described an increased knowledge about engineering and appreciated the problem-solving experience.
For more data on the success of the pilot, see Segil’s report for the American Society for Engineering Education 2015 conference. For more information on the Department of Education’s curriculum work, or to find out how you can use SparkFun’s coursework in your school, contact education(at)sparkfun(dot)com.
The courses can be downloaded for free at: