Strategic Instruction Initiative

The Strategic Instruction Initiative (SII) program aims to reimagine engineering education by identifying, developing, implementing and accelerating innovative best practices for teaching and learning.

The SII program is an effort to:

  • Improve first- and second-year student engagement and learning
  • Encourage large-scale innovations that move the curriculum toward project-based learning
  • Broaden access to and improve retention in engineering programs

The SII program provides awards of approximately $25,000 per year for up to two years to implement innovative educational ideas. Successful SII proposals will involve multiple faculty members who are committed to reimagining engineering education, and producing substantive improvements that can be sustained for a decade or more.

2019 proposal timeline (tentative)

  • SII announcement: April 30
  • Proposals due: July 1
  • Selection notification: August 15
  • Funding cycle begins: September 15

Who may submit proposals

Principal Innovators (PIs) for all proposals must be CoE faculty members. Collaborators may be from any department on campus.

2017 awardees

This project will create a new first-year engineering exploration course which introduces students to multidisciplinary engineering approaches to improving and promoting human health. The overall motivation is to provide DTC students with a high quality educational experience in which they can become better informed about the alignment between CoE’s degree programs and their personal interests. Bioengineering plans to collaborate with other departments in the CoE, including Chemical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, to enable students to explore engineering from an interdisciplinary and interdepartmental perspective.

Leveraging the engaging context of solving unmet needs in human health, this course will explore the different research and educational opportunities in a subset of CoE majors strategically selected based on an alignment of prerequisite requirements. It will teach students fundamental engineering and professional skills, facilitate development of their identities as engineers, and help them identify and learn about multiple engineering programs in which they might major. In addition to major exploration, this course provides an important opportunity for first-year students to learn communication skills, teamwork skills, and the engineering design process, including key language and concepts, to provide a toolset for future work. This course will help DTC students identify complementary pathways for engineering majors relevant to health and medicine, and prepare for future engineering studies.

Faculty team

This proposal will develop a new freshmen elective engineering course that will use examples taken from culinary activities to introduce fundamental concepts to UW’s engineering disciplines. Covered topics would include fluid flow (Newtonian vs non-Newtonian fluids), machine & instrument design (gears, ergonomics), solid mechanics (stress, strain, shear, and torsion), heat transfer (conduction, convection, radiation), separations (distillation, extraction, centrifugation), phase transitions (boiling, sublimation, crystallization), diffusion, nutrition and sustainability. The course, which will target freshmen and sophomore students from all engineering majors, will be taught as a series of lectures and demonstrations by the PIs and by local chefs (we have already enlisted Chef Perfecte Rocher from Tarsan I Jane) followed by explanations of engineering concepts, problem solving sessions, and at-home ‘lab’ experimentation. The course will be offered for the first time in Spring 2018 and with an enrollment of 50 students or less. It will be offered again in 2019 with an enrollment increase to 100 students or less, corresponding to the target size.

The primary goals of this new course are to: 1) Engage and excite students with ‘Everyday Examples in Engineering,’ 2) provide meaningful engineering experiences and hands-on skills and 3) introduce problems & solutions tackled by a broad range of engineering disciplines.

Faculty team

The focus of the work in this project is the development of tools, materials and educational plans to provide and support project-based learning with computation, electronics and mechanical systems along multiple pathways in early engineering education. Specifically, educational modules based on the use of Arduino and Matlab will be built to supplement existing engineering curriculum in fundamental CoE courses including statics (AA 210), mechanics of materials (CEE 220), kinematics and dynamics (ME 230), and thermodynamics (AA 260). By nature, the use of Arduino, Matlab, electronics, sensors and actuators provides a rich field of application opportunities that are inherently multidisciplinary and translatable between disciplines. The key learning outcomes to be addressed are integration of engineering analysis with engineering intuition, problem solving, and self-directed learning. The faculty members partnering in this activity have been selected specifically for their experience and expertise in teaching each of the undergraduate fundamentals courses listed and for their experience with Arduino.

Faculty team

This proposal is to initiate the Grand Challenge Impact Lab (GCIL) at University of Washington. The first GCIL program will be a one-quarter (10 weeks; Winter 2018) class in Bangalore, India. Students will learn about Grand Challenge (GC) problems and solutions, and in interdisciplinary teams will propose a self-sustaining solution that addresses customers’ needs related to a GC.

GCIL is multidisciplinary: all teams will include students from multiple disciplines; students will need to work across those disciplinary boundaries to solve problems. GCIL exemplifies education innovations that NSF and NAE encourage: problem-based learning, service learning, experiential education, solution-focused learning, entrepreneurship, study abroad, and GCs.

This program builds on the Acara program, which started at University of Minnesota 7 years ago. Multiple students told us Acara was the most meaningful experience they had done during college, inside or outside the classroom.

Faculty team

Request for proposals

Proposals may include the creation or renovation of a specific undergraduate course or a closely related group of courses, as well as the generation of other innovative educational activities. Successful proposals will involve multiple faculty members who are committed to reimagining engineering education and producing substantive improvements that can be sustained for a decade or more.

SII provides financial support via the grant process and, through the CoE Office of Academic Affairs, administrative infrastructure for collaboration during the life of the proposed projects. The Office for the Advancement of Engineering Teaching & Learning will provide instructional development support (e.g., consultation on curriculum development and pedagogy, relevant educational research).

Proposal categories and details

These proposals focus on developing and implementing interactive, group-based pedagogies that blend engineering fundamentals with non-technical professional skills. Preference will be given to proposals that:

  • Involve multiple faculty members
  • Innovate, integrate, and improve the learning experience in existing fundamental CoE course(s) that:
    • Enroll large numbers of students
    • Enroll students from multiple departments
    • Cause undue student/faculty/administrative stress
    • Present challenging teaching assignments
    • Provide a foundation for subsequent courses
  • Include project-based or problem-based experiences
  • Identify the methods for improving student engagement
  • Include specific learning objectives for a variety of nontechnical professional skills
  • Specify how the proposed curriculum addresses specific educational challenges or needs, for example:
    • Applicability to large first- or second-year cohorts
    • Suitability for large class sizes
    • Ability to provide students with an opportunity to experience a variety of engineering disciplines in core areas of multiple engineering departments
  • Have potential to engage or retain a wide variety of diverse students
  • Produce changes that are sustainable for a decade or more

These proposals focus on forming or identifying projects to participate in the Vertically-Integrated Projects (VIP) program, an undergraduate education initiative whereby undergraduate students join VIP teams and participate in design or discovery efforts that assist faculty and graduate students with research and development.

VIP fosters hands-on, project-based learning for undergraduate students. Students earn academic credit while working as part of student teams supported by graduate students and faculty members. Students can participate in VIP for up to four years, during which time they are both mentees and mentors on multidisciplinary teams.

Proposals for forming VIP projects must:

  • Demonstrate how the project is to be developed and piloted
  • Address how it is to be sustained over time
  • Identify limitations (class size, scope, etc.)
  • Identify required resources (lab space, faculty/TA/RA involvement, etc.)
  • Identify capacity (number of students per class, number of classes per quarter, etc.)
  • Include a credit option (ENGR course, departmental course, etc.)
  • Address any issues that might impact program stability

These proposals will be open to any ideas for engineering education innovations that identify, develop, implement, and accelerate novel teaching and learning practices. Possible examples include, but are not limited to:

  • International experience or study abroad
  • New multidisciplinary graduate and undergraduate degree programs
  • Multidisciplinary learning collaborations that engage students in meaningful problem solutions in new and emerging areas (e.g., energy, environment, health, manufacturing, smart city/infrastructure)

Funding opportunities

The funding cycle begins September 15. Funding is provided across all three categories, with funding levels commensurate with the scope of interaction being proposed. The maximum funding available for a single project is $50,000. Up to $25,000 will be awarded for the first year, with the possibility of renewal for a second year. Matching funds, to augment these funds, from departments or centers are encouraged but not necessary.

All three categories aim to support team‐building activities that promote the reputation of UW CoE as a recognized leader in engineering education. Funded activities include TA/RA support, instructional materials, travel, and equipment.

Proposal guidelines

  • Proposals should not exceed 3 pages.
  • Use the Word proposal template as provided. The submitted file should be in .doc or .docx format.
  • The proposed budget may include up to 1 week of faculty salary.
  • Proposals must be submitted with a letter of support from the department chair, who will confirm support for the work and departmental willingness to sustain successful improvements beyond the term of the project.
  • Proposals should be submitted by July 1 to the SII application system.

Review criteria

  • How multidisciplinary is the proposed collaboration?
  • How does the proposed curriculum innovation address an area that is perceived as a significant problem (or opportunity) for the CoE?
  • What is the potential impact of the proposed curriculum innovation?
  • What is the plan for ensuring educational improvements in the proposed program that includes regular formative assessment?
  • How will the proposed program lead to a sustainable curriculum that will have longterm educational impact?
  • Does the proposal fit all of the stated guidelines?

Selection process

The CoE Office of Academic Affairs will appoint the SII Selection Committee to conduct confidential and anonymous reviews of all proposals. The Selection Committee will be composed of CoE and, when appropriate, campus faculty who are not PIs/co‐PIs for any SII proposals. Committee members will be asked to disclose any possible conflicts of interest for any proposal they review.

The Selection Committee will deliberate and assemble a ranked list of proposals recommended for funding and present this list to the Dean, who will make the final funding decision. An overview of constructive comments will be provided to each team at the conclusion of the selection process. Note that the Selection Committee will be charged to evaluate all proposals in light of the strategic goals of the program, favoring proposals that have the potential for significant impact on CoE’s educational activities.

Reporting requirements

Reporting requirements include mid‐year updates (slides and a brief presentation in a CoE organized SII forum in March) and written reports at the end of each of the two years (due each year in June).

The projects are expected to produce pilot courses based on the results of this work, and decisions on continued funding past the first year will be made in June based on the teams’ activities toward this goal as evaluated by the SII Selection Committee.