Prof. Jennifer Weiser and Collaborators from Mount Sinai Presented at the 2021 Virtual ASEE Conference

POSTED ON: September 16, 2021

ASEE 2021 Conf.

This summer, Jennifer Weiser, assistant professor of chemical engineering, in collaboration with Dr. James Iatridis, professor of orthopaedics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS), and Christopher Panebianco ChE’16, a Cooper Union alumnus and Ph.D. candidate at ISMMS, presented their work virtually at the 2021 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference.

The presentation and publication, “Development of an At-home Metal Corrosion Laboratory Experiment for STEM Outreach in Biomaterials During the Covid-19 Pandemic,” is based on the work the team did creating outreach opportunities with hands on experiments that could be performed safely at home. The experiment was adapted from one developed for Prof. Weiser’s Biomaterials course, which provide at-home experimental kits to undergraduate students through the CU@Home program in response to virtual learning. 

The team from Cooper and ISMMS partnered with the Young Eisner Scholar (YES) program to bring the activity virtually to 45 middle school students in four YES chapters simultaneously around the US (NYC, LA, Chicago, and the Appalachian region). The YES program’s mission is to identify promising students from underserved communities and equip them with the resources, support, and academic skills required for success. Each YES student was supplied with the materials needed to run the experiment at-home and attended two virtual sessions five weeks apart run by the Cooper-ISMMS team. During each session, the team led a discussion on biomaterials and the importance of corrosion in their design. By using paper clips and different salt solutions, the YES students were able to study corrosion long term in their own homes. The YES students were then able to collaborate with the Cooper-ISMMS team and their peers through Zoom to design and implement a fatigue failure testing method. 

The success of this virtual at-home experiment led to its implementation in other STEM outreach collaborations with the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Additionally, it is an example of how the virtual learning environment can be used beyond the constraints brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic to offer outreach opportunities to a greater number of students from around the world, without being constrained by their geographic location.

Due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, many universities and outreach programs have switched to online learning platforms, which inhibits students from completing formative hands-on experiments. To address this, we developed a series of at-home experiments for undergraduate engineering students and adapted one of these experiments for outreach purposes. This experiment was well received by middle school students in the Young Eisner Scholars (YES) Program and resulted in significant learning gains by pre/post-test assessment. Additionally, students showed enhanced attitudes toward science after completing their at-home experiments, as measured by pre/post-surveys. These results motivate the use of similar at-home experiments with virtual instruction to remotely teach engineering concepts to diverse, underserved communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.