Meteorology Meets Engineering: An Interdisciplinary STEM Module for Middle- and Secondary-School Students

Friday, 19 December 2014
Bradford Barrett, Angela Moran and John Edward Woods, US Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD, United States
Given the continued need to educate the public on both the meteorological and engineering hazards posed by the severe winds of a tornado, an interdisciplinary STEM module designed by faculty from the Oceanography and Mechanical Engineering departments at the U.S. Naval Academy was developed to engage students ages 12-16 in the fields of meteorology and engineering. Interdisciplinary educational modules such as this one are becoming increasingly common components of academic outreach programs, but to our knowledge, this is one of the first to combine the fields of meteorology and engineering. While many studies have examined changes in student engagement and interest in the STEM fields as a result of participating in interdisciplinary activities such as this one, relatively fewer have focused on quantifying changes in student content knowledge. The primary purposes of this paper are to (1) describe our interdisciplinary STEM module in detail, and (2) report immediate changes in students’ knowledge of basic meteorological and engineering content as a result of their participation in the module. Results from a quick, easy-to-administer assessment instrument given to students immediately before and after their participation in the 1-hour module indicated that they learned basic content in both meteorology and engineering. Mean improvement of scores on the assessment questions was 40.2%, a change that was statistically significant at the 95% confidence level. Future studies of student learning could gain additional insight into the value of the module by lengthening the time between student participation in the module and the administration of the post-module assessment.