Category Archives: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Center

Billington collaborates on NSF-funded grant to create interactive science education games

Barbara Billington, a science lecturer in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, will collaborate with University of Minnesota colleagues and educational technology company Andamio Games on a project funded by the National Science Foundation to produce a series of tablet-based lessons and challenges to help high school students master concepts related to photosynthesis and cell respiration. This project will enable students to learn difficult science concepts using a collaborative gaming approach that aims to significantly increase student engagement and understanding.

As part of the grant, Billington will partner with life science teachers from Saint Paul Public Schools to conduct a classroom study in the second year of the project. Lessons will be designed and research directed by both Billington and her colleagues Sehoya Cotner, associate professor in the College of Biological Sciences, and Christopher Desjardins, research associate at the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement.

“Science teacher feedback in Phase I of the project reconfirmed the value of our multi-player approach and also led us to the addition of a virtual biology lab,” said Andamio Games president Adam Gordon. “Teachers wanted their students to get a practical experience of scientific experimentation — including when it doesn’t go quite as expected — independent of the usual costs and time commitments for conventional lab experiments.”

Billington has a unique understanding of science classrooms after seven years teaching high school biology. She earned both her teacher licensure and Ph.D. in science education from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, where her current research focuses on training pre-service teachers and gender equity in STEM education.

Find out more about the science education programs in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.



C&I’s Gillian Roehrig appointed President of the Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE)

Professor Gillian Roehrig has been elected to the prestigious role of President of the Association for Science Teachers Education (ASTE), a non-profit professional organization composed of over 800 members from countries around the globe.

Gillian Roehrig with past ASTE president, Malcolm Butler

The mission of ASTE is to “promote excellence in science teacher education world-wide through scholarship and innovation.” Members include teacher educators, scientists, science coordinators and supervisors, and informal science educators who prepare and provide professional development for teachers of science at all grade levels.

As both a professor of science education and the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, Roehrig’s professional focus is on advancing science teacher education and preparation.

She writes that her “research and teaching interests are centered on understanding how teachers translate national and state standards into their classrooms. Of particular interest is how teachers, from preservice through induction and into the inservice years, implement inquiry-based teaching and how different induction and professional development programs can influence teachers’ knowledge, beliefs, and classroom practices.”

Roehrig’s brings her considerable experience and expertise to help steer ASTE in advancing science education practice and policy through scholarship, collaboration, and innovation in science teacher education.

Learn more about the science teacher education and research programs in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction.





Cramer leads interdisciplinary research initiative to improve student math outcomes

STEM co-executive director Kathleen Cramer is part of an interdisciplinary research initiative aimed at improving student math outcomes. In partnership with Generation Next and representatives from Minneapolis Public Schools, the GopherMath project builds on the expertise of faculty within four distinct areas: fraction learning, whole number assessments and interventions, teacher development, and parent involvement.

The GopherMath collaboration builds on a long term research and curriculum development project at the University known as the Rational Number Project (RNP). Because the work done in this area in grades 3-6 mathematics classrooms determines students’ access to algebra, it is critical that students have appropriate learning experiences that support learning in ways that result in deep conceptual understanding and procedural fluency.

This project also looks at factors within and outside the classroom that may influence students’ learning of this important content, potentially identifying how each component addressed supports students’ success in learning about a key topic in elementary grades.

Ph.D. Student in STEM Education Receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Jeanna Wieselmann2
Ph.D. student in STEM education, Jeanna Wieselmann

Jeanna Wieselmann, a doctoral candidate in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) Fellowship based on her “demonstrated potential to contribute to strengthening the vitality of the U.S. science and engineering enterprise.”

Wieselmann’s research is focused on gender equity in STEM education at the elementary school level. She wants to find ways to get girls more interested in the STEM fields while examining their identities related to science and math and how those are affected by immersive STEM educational experiences.

Before entering the Ph.D. program in STEM Education, Wieselmann received her teaching license and master’s of education in elementary education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction then moved onto a position with STARBASE, an educational non-profit that provides hands-on, interactive experiences in STEM education for students as a complement to their classroom education. Wieselmann’s work at STARBASE spurred her interested in the STEM fields, especially when she saw that girls were just as engaged as boys in the Mars exploration storyline and robotics and rocketry activities. The five-day immersive experience that involved the entire class really “levelled the playing field,” Wieselmann noted. “Interest was high across the board.”

Wieselmann’s research will examine the activities at STARBASE to understand their impact on female students’ interest in science and technology. She hopes to tease out activities that can be translated into the classroom and continue to engage students. She will also conduct interviews with 4th-and 5th-grade girls to find out if the immersive experience is helping them identify more as scientists and mathematicians. She believes that exposure to STEM fields and women in STEM may help girls see themselves as future scientists.

“I’m fortunate be at institution where women are well represented in the STEM fields, in my department in particular,” Wieselmann says of Department of Curriculum & Instruction where both of her advisors, Gillian Roehrig and Julie Brown, are female STEM faculty. “I would like to be a professor at a research institution, so seeing women in that role has definitely inspired me.”

Find out more about the Department of Curriculum & Instruction and the doctoral program in STEM Education.




Professor Lesa Clarkson receives award for inspiring women in STEM education

lesa clarkson
Lesa Clarkson, associate professor in mathematics education

Lesa Clarkson, associate professor of mathematics education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, was honored with the INSIGHT into Diversity 2016 Inspiring Women in STEM Award and will be featured in the September issue of INSIGHT into Diversity magazine. The award honors “remarkable women in STEM professions who continue to make a significant difference through mentoring and teaching, research, successful programs and initiatives, and other efforts worthy of national recognition.”

Clarkson’s research agenda focuses on mathematics in the urban classroom, specifically identifying successful strategies that increase student achievement primarily among underrepresented student groups. She focuses on African-American students, specifically, because this group of students historically has the lowest scores on the national and state assessments. Clarkson believes, “The color of a student’s skin is not correlated to their achievement in mathematics.”

Clarkson’s research aims to find best practices that will provide all students with engaging mathematics experiences in addition to the basic “tools” that are essential for students.

STEM faculty featured in U of M Brief for National Science Foundation grant

STEM Education Center faculty member Barbara Billington, along with College of Biological Sciences professor Sehoya Cotner, recently partnered with local startup Andamio Games and received a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to design a series of tablet-based lessons on cell respiration and photosynthesis. Read the full article in the latest U of M Brief.

STEM Co-Director participates in national panel on transforming postsecondary education

Karl Smith, STEM Education Center Co-Director, participated in the inaugural meeting of the Transforming Postsecondary Education – Mathematics Advisory Group in Washington, D.C. on March 25. The meeting was organized by the National Academies and the Institute for Advanced Study. He served on Panel 3: Lessons from Postsecondary Reform in other STEM Disciplines and presented two examples of engineering education reform – cooperative learning and engineering education Ph.D. programs.

STEM Education Center receives donation from Lakeland Foundation

On Friday, February 26th, Chad Tverberg from the Lakeland Companies visited the STEM Education Center to present a donation from the Lakeland Foundation. Chad, a University of Minnesota alum, currently serves as Vice President of Engineering. Lakeland is a 60-year old, family-owned business that specializes in providing high-quality electrical component and systems solutions to industrial companies throughout the Midwest.

“At the Lakeland Companies, we share worthwhile work stories to help our employees understand that what we are doing here is more than just a job. Many times the solutions we provide to our customers are also beneficial to our communities,” said Chad. “Your work is a great example of something that is worthwhile. I am seeing some of the results first hand from my own teenagers who are benefiting from the STEM influenced curriculum at their school, to the engineering students that we have hired in recent years. You are making a positive impact on the community.”

(L-R) STEM Co-Director Karl Smith, Chad Tverberg, STEM Co-Director Kathleen Cramer, CEHD Senior Development Officer Jane Townsend

(L-R) STEM Co-Director Karl Smith, Chad Tverberg, STEM Co-Director Kathleen Cramer, CEHD Senior Development Officer Jane Townsend

Chad’s visit included a tour of the center and a conversation with STEM Center Co-Directors Kathleen Cramer and Karl Smith.

“Donations such as Lakeland’s afford the STEM Center opportunities to explore promising areas of research, support graduate students, and host events that broaden our impact and community,” said Karl.

The STEM Education Center thanks the Lakeland Foundation for its continued support.

STEM Advisory Board Member Receives CEHD Distinguished Alumni Award

STEM Education Center Advisory Board Member Natalie D. Rasmussen is the recipient of a 2015 CEHD Distinguished Alumni Award.

Dr. Rasmussen received her B.S. in Life Science from the University of Minnesota in 1990 and her Ph.D. in education from Curriculum and Instruction in 2006. Her commitment to mentoring young people, passion for public school leadership, and outstanding teaching in science education were highlighted when presented the award.

The College of Education and Human Development Distinguished Alumni Award was established in 2010 to honor alumni who have brought distinction to their professions and communities. Recipients are community builders and leaders who span a diverse range of academic disciplines and career paths: business and civic leaders, counselors and social workers, educators and activists, entrepreneurs, and the most dedicated of volunteers. All recipients make a positive difference in the lives of children, youth, families, schools, and organizations, and whose achievements bring honor to the college.


Cargill Foundation to fund STEM Education Center and Minneapolis Public School’s program to develop STEM schools


The Cargill Foundation Board of Directors has approved a two-year capital grant in the amount of $300,000 to the STEM Education Center through the University of Minnesota Foundation to aid in the effort of developing STEM schools in Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS).

Faculty members Gillian Roehrig and Julie Brown have partnered with MPS STEM Integrationists Betsy Stretch and Charlene Ellingson to direct and implement the newly awarded program.

The funds are in support of the STEM Education Center’s partnership with administrators at MPS secondary schools (Franklin, Olson, Ramsey, and Stanford middle schools) and one grade-nine STEM concept school (North High) to engage in new and innovative concepts to develop inclusive STEM school frameworks within Minneapolis Public Schools.

Four part-time graduate research assistants will be awarded a Cargill STEM Fellowship to carry-out the research necessary for this program, and additional funds will be used to provide professional development in the summers and academic years.

“We are pleased to partner with University of Minnesota Foundation and University of Minnesota’s STEM Education Center,” wrote Director of Cargill Foundation and Corporate Giving Tolá Oyewole. “We look forward to seeing the progress of the Developing STEM Schools in Minneapolis Public Schools Program over the next year.”

STEM Education Center at ASTE Conference in Reno, NV

From January 7th-9th, 2016 numerous faculty and graduate students from the STEM Education Center will be attending the Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE) International Conference in Reno, NV.

During these three days our faculty and graduate students will attend paper and poster presentations as well as roundtable discussions with colleagues in the science education field.

If you are also attending the ASTE Conference next week please connect with our STEM Education Center attendees and learn more about the great work they do!

STEM Education Center Faculty Feature- Bhaskar Upadhyay

UpadhyayB-2004The end of the year marks a time of reflection and gratitude. We look for inspiration to begin a new year and we are thankful for what the previous year gave us. Recently back from sabbatical, Dr. Upadhyay reflected on his many projects and future plans but nothing was more impactful than his time spent in Nepal after the catastrophic earthquake that truly altered his life.

April 25th 2015 marked a tragic day for the citizens of Nepal. A magnitude 7.8 earthquake ravaged the country, leaving over nine thousand either injured or dead. Like so many Nepal natives, this event had a massive impact on Bhaskar Upadhyay’s life, but it did not break his spirit.

Still considering himself new to America, Bhaskar Upadhyay has been living and working in the education world for the past sixteen years. Influenced by his parents and dear friends who were unable to receive a formal education, Bhaskar pursued education to positively impact and educate future generations back in his Nepalese village. His research interests center around the proper conceptualization of the achievement gap and providing high quality STEM/STEAM education on a global scale.

Dr. Upadhyay’s sabbatical was supposed to be a time to focus on his research. He had begun a book project about STEAM education with reflective stories from fellow principals, teachers, and school administrators. However, after April 25th his plans were severely interrupted.

“The best use of my time while on sabbatical was being able to help a very small number of people in Nepal after the earthquake,” said Bhaskar.

Spending over two months in his hometown, Bhaskar helped schools rebuild their infrastructure and provided relief by talking with parents and children about the earthquake and how it changed their lives.

“It did change my life obviously. I think about my life and what I need to do and figure out more than I did before that. If I had to say what sabbatical really did I think that was the most important thing,” reflects Bhaskar.

Now back from sabbatical and in the United States, Bhaskar is focusing once again on completing his book on STEAM education and addressing proper perceptions of the achievement gap. He is also reflecting more on what STEM/STEAM education means to him and what it means to be a STEM/STEAM educator. This has proven to be a challenge for him, in that, philosophically Dr. Upadhyay believes STEM/STEAM is a good way to educate our youth but worries about losing the importance of the individual disciplines.

However, Bhaskar’s spirit and drive to understand and impact the world of STEM/STEAM is unwavering. Taking from his own personal interests in cooking and gardening, Bhaskar seeks to find stimulating and relevant contexts for children to learn STEM/STEAM concepts. He continues to look at how racialized experiences affect achievement gap and ways to create positive learning spaces for all youths.

Ultimately, Bhaskar looks forward to pursing work that touches his core and especially impacts teachers, parents and youth with the least privileges, whether they are in in the Twin Cities, Nepal, or elsewhere.

EngrTEAMS Represented at White House Next Generation STEM Learning Forum

The EngrTEAMS research project was represented by the lead PI, Dr. Tamara Moore, during the Next Generation STEM Learning for All Forum supported by the NSF on November 9th, 2015 at the White House.

The Next Generation STEM Learning for All Forum was a capstone event to a week of administrative events supporting next generation learning. Thought leaders across the nation were invited to the White House to focus on the potential to transform STEM Learning and Education, strategizing how to best achieve collective impact, and coordinate toward national goals for STEM Education.

Of the many activities throughout the event, a highlight of Dr. Moore’s experience was participating in a group discussion around achievement gap with fellow researchers as well as advocate, philanthropist and rapper MC Hammer.

“I believe I was selected to participate in the discussion around achievement gap because of the range of partner districts on the EngrTEAMS project that provide great insights and experience”, says Dr. Tamara Moore.

The EngrTEAMS project was also represented during a poster session designed to showcase NSF-funded research and development, engage a broad community of stakeholders and facilitate networking across stakeholder groups.

To learn more about the Next Generation STEM Learning for All Forum visit their website at

Dr. Billington and Partners Receive NSF Grant to Develop Biology App

Congratulations to Dr. Barbara Billington, Dr. Sehoya Cotner from the College of Biological Sciences, and their partner Andamio Games for receiving a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to design a series of biology related applications for mobile devices.

These apps will focus on high school and college level biology lessons where groups of students can work together to model complex biological processes. The ability for multiple students to work simultaneously on a single project is a unique feature of this application and allows teachers to provide individualized teaching without separating students by their ability.

Dr. Billington and Dr. Cotner will conduct research on the biology lessons using this application.

A similar app, iNeuron, was another collaboration between Andamio Games and UofMN researchers from both CBS and the STEM Education Center. This app has been downloaded 50,000 times and a version 2 is currently under evaluation.

Read more about the NSF grant and development of this new application here!

Dr. Karl Smith Presents at December CUE Meeting

Dr. Karl Smith, Co-Director of the STEM Education Center, presented at the Council for Undergraduate Education meeting held December 2nd at Walter Library.

Topics of discussion included the STEM Education Grand Challenge Proposal submitted by Dr. Smith and colleagues as well as feedback from the recent AAU STEM Conference held on October 13th-14th in St. Louis, MO. The STEM Education Center Communications Coordinator, Kelly Auxier, attended the AAU conference on behalf of the University and provided notes and feedback for the CUE meeting.

The Council for Undergraduate Education, formerly the Council of Undergraduate Deans, was formed to bring people together across the University to share information and recommendations on University initiatives in undergraduate education.

An agenda and presentation materials of the December CUE meeting are available at the CUE website.

Dr. Karl Smith highlighted as pioneer in engineering education

The Engineering Education Pioneers project recently highlighted Dr. Karl Smith, executive co-director of the STEM Education Center, on his lifetime achievements and visions for the future of engineering education.

The Engineering Education Pioneers project is focused on highlighting past change efforts in engineering education to forge the path for ongoing transformation in the field. A major project activity is to spotlight successful leaders and change agents in engineering education.

Dr. Smith’s profile is an extensive and enlightening look at his career path with many words of wisdom peppered throughout. Besides his own personal journey, Dr. Smith shares his ideas on where the world of engineering education could do better and where it will go in the future. Concluding with the following statement,

“People in my generation have done what we can, and I think now its up to the next generation to advance the community.”

Dr. Karl Smith encapsulates his profile by passing the torch to future educators who can learn from his experience to help advance the field of engineering education.

Read the full profile on the Engineering Education Pioneers website.

STEM Education Center Faculty Feature- Dr. Barbara Billington

BillingtonB-2012Bright sunlight streams into her office. Plants and family photos line the windowsill while books and binders fill the shelves. Dr. Billington is diligently typing at her computer but just above her screen is a beautiful view of the St. Paul Campus. She takes a second to look up and daydream of her next chance to mentor students in their own classrooms.

Dr. Billington is a former science education student of the University of Minnesota under the guidance of Dr. Fred Finley. While teaching biology in a local high school, Dr. Finley contacted Barbara to fill a mentorship position for science education student teachers back at her Alma matter. It didn’t take long for Dr. Billington to enjoy her new position.

“What I have found so inspirational about working at the University is the students I work with”- Dr.  Billington

Along with Dr. Fred Finley, Gillian Roehrig has been a big influence for Dr. Billington. Barbara is also involved in broader higher education circles to learn what is occurring in schools like Hamline, Bethel or St. Catherine’s. Dr. Billington is happy to learn that the STEM Education Center program is a unique and strong partner within the community. She is proud of the space she works in and appreciates the conversations and collaborations that the STEM Education Center supports.

“It is not just the space, but the concept of the center. It is a great place to work and to come to”- Dr. Billington.

Besides her academic work, Dr. Billington is collaborating on a new three-year National Science Foundation grant with Twin Cities Public Television. This project focuses on providing professional development to teachers in career and technical education. Barbara Billington is also working on a second grant that is developing online games focused on STEM education.

Like many of her colleagues, Dr. Billington’s hopes and concerns for the future of STEM Education are grand and challenging. Her personal philosophy about the future of STEM Education involves major systemic and political changes as well as a coherent understanding of what STEM Education means in practice in order to truly teach integrated STEM Education. However, Dr. Billington is enthusiastic. Her partnerships across University departments, conversations with fellow colleagues, and continued fieldwork with student teachers makes her excited to continue advancing the field of STEM Education.

Dr. Billington’s optimism is encouraging and contagious. She is always a positive presence in the STEM Education Center and a delight to get to know. I was a surprise to learn that Dr. Billington is a published poet after studying abroad in Australia through an interdisciplinary English and marine biology program.

The STEM Education Center is lucky to have such a valuable colleague whose passion for mentorship is so inspiring.

The STEM Education Center Welcomes Erin Baldinger- Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education

While crowds of eager St. Fair goers flood the streets of St. Paul campus, Erin Baldinger is hard at work preparing for her first year as the new Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education in the STEM Education Center.

ErinBaldingerFor her first semester as C&I faculty, Erin Baldinger will teach MTHE 5021- Algebraic Structures in School Mathematics and begin researching the role of college-level math content courses in preparing secondary math teachers. Dr. Baldinger will also work with colleagues around investigating supports for novice teachers to engage in high-leverage instructional practices.

Mathematics became a strong interest of Erin’s while in high school. During her undergraduate experience at Tufts University Erin was required to complete a wide range of courses but always found herself registering for mathematics classes. Erin graduated with a degree in mathematics and her equal interest in teaching led her to purse a position as a middle school mathematics teacher.

During her three years as a middle school mathematics teacher, Erin began to formulate questions around her experience. This led her to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics education from Stanford University where she focused on teacher education and preparation in mathematics at the high school level.

Erin is happy to be a part of the STEM Education Center where she can work with her science colleagues to make science, technology, engineering and math accessible for as many students as possible.

“I was actually really excited about the program here and to be a part of the STEM Center that brings those things together and has collaboration and a prominence in the community”, says Erin, “I am excited about the partnerships we have with the local schools. The teaching I am already doing involves meeting with students in their classroom where I can see what is happening and we can talk about their experiences back in class.”

Her first year goals at the STEM Education Center include connecting with activities in the center, building relationships with colleagues, and getting to know the students. So far her first impressions have been welcoming.

Born and raised in Minnesota, this new chapter in Erin’s career is very much a homecoming. Her summer was spent moving back to St. Paul from Arizona where she held her first faculty position at ASU. Along the way, Erin stopped in Santa Fe, Oklahoma City, and Kansas City. She is now settling in and looking to join a klezmer band where she can continue her passion of playing the trombone.

The STEM Education Center is happy to welcome Erin Baldinger to the team and looks forward to her many successes to come!

Dr. Julie Brown shares STEM Vision in CEHD 2020 Vision Blog

Dr. Julie Brown from the STEM Education Center shares her vision of STEM Education and her goals to design and test solutions to the problem of equity and access to STEM Education for all students. Read Dr. Brown’s encouraging story here-

STEM Education Center presents at East China Normal University

In May 2015, Dr. Jia-Ling Lin, research scientist from the STEM Education Center, and Prof. Tamara Moore (the former co-director of the STEM Education Center, now associate professor at the Purdue University) presented two lecture series in the East China Normal University (ECNU), awarded by the Lectureship for the Division of the International Courses for Graduate Students of ECNU: “Foundations of Precollege Integrated STEM Education” (Moore) & “Discourse Analysis and Nature of Dialogic Inquiry in STEM Education” (Lin).

In 2014, Prof. Moore and Dr. Lin were invited to become distinctive oversea professors for the Collaborative Innovation Center for National Education Policy-making (CICNEP), following the STEM Center delegation visit to the ECNU in spring 2013. Members of the delegation included Prof. Karl Smith, the center co-director, Prof. Moore, and Dr. Lin. The delegation was received by the Vice President of the ECNU, Dr. Ren Youqun, who expressed interests in establishing and developing collaborations with UMN.