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Professor Rich Crawford is awarded the Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award. From left to right: Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, Chairman of the Board of Regents Gene Powell, Professor Rich Crawford, Vice-Chairman Steve Hicks.

Professor Rich Crawford is awarded the Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award. From left to right: Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, Chairman of the Board of Regents Gene Powell, Professor Rich Crawford, Vice-Chairman Steve Hicks.

Professor Rich Crawford in his office.

Professor Rich Crawford in his office.

Dr. Richard Crawford has been honored with the 2011 Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award, awarded by The University of Texas Systems' Board of Regents. This award is given in recognition of those who serve The University of Texas Systems' undergraduate students in an exemplary manner. Dr. Crawford is one of 30 tenured faculty in The University of Texas System to win this award.

The Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award

This is a teaching award presented annually to outstanding faculty members (tenured, tenure-track and non-tenure-track) who have made significant educational contributions to the university, both in the classroom and beyond through creative innovation and methodology in education. It is one of the highest honors bestowed by The University of Texas System for educational excellence. The award is "a symbol of the importance [the regents] place on the provision of undergraduate teaching and learning of the highest order." Dr. Crawford was recommended by Chair Joe Beaman of the Mechanical Engineering Department.

Rich Crawford's Credentials

Education

Dr. Richard H. Crawford is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and is the Temple Foundation Endowed Faculty Fellow No. 3. He received his BSME from Louisiana State University in 1982, and his MSME in 1985 and Ph.D. in 1989, both from Purdue University. He joined the faculty of the university in January 1990 and teaches mechanical engineering design and geometric modeling for design. He also developed a research program to investigate a broad range of topics in computer-aided mechanical design, design theory and methodology.

Dr. Crawford has long been involved in improving engineering education. He has been instrumental in developing the following four key programs for the education of Texas engineers:

  • DTEACh for teaching middle school and high school students
  • PROCEED for teaching mechanical engineering college students
  • UTeachEngineering for training current and future K-12 teachers to teach engineering at the high school level as a science/math elective course
  • Engineering Design Institute for talented high school students and their teachers

Design Technology and Engineering for All Children (DTEACh)

Teachers in a DTEACh summer training session test their robots in the hall outside the classroom. Dr. Crawford is watching them through the doorway.

Teachers in a DTEACh summer training session test their robots in the hall outside the classroom. Dr. Crawford is watching them through the doorway.

In 1992 Dr. Crawford and Dr. Kristin Wood founded the DTEACh program to provide professional development that prepares K-12 teachers to teach mathematics and science within the context of solving design problems. Through DTEACh, Dr. Crawford has been instrumental in changing science education in Central Texas for nearly 20 years.

Middle school DTEACh students testing their underwater robot.

Middle school DTEACh students testing their underwater robot.

The first steps toward educating an engineer start in early childhood. However, many teachers simply aren't trained in engineering or computer programming instruction. DTEACh instructs K-12 teachers in engineering education through a combination of techniques: hands-on exploration, interactive discussion, exploratory laboratories, open-ended design problems and project reporting.

For students to be academically prepared for a university engineering program, the groundwork for their education must be laid as early as middle school. If a middle school student can see the benefits of engineering as a career choice, the student is more likely and willing to follow a more demanding high school curriculum, necessary for engineering. DTEACh also supports a yearlong after school program for elementary and middle school students and a summer camp at the UT campus for middle school students. By focusing on the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) 21st Century Grand Challenges and humanitarian engineering, DTEACh is designed to be attractive to female and non-traditional students, and actively seeks their involvement in the program.

The success of the DTEACh training model led the Cockrell School of Engineering to selection as a Central Texas Transformation 2013 T-STEM (Texas Science, Technology Engineering and Math) Collaborative Partner. Charged with developing innovative curricula, assessment tools, and teacher training materials for high school level hands-on mathematics and science, DTEACh has developed core modules in the areas of automation, control, and robotics, which are intrinsically interesting to students due to their everyday experiences with technology. Since 1998, DTEACh has educated over 700 educators and impacted over 15,000 students.

Dr. Crawford credits the success and feedback received from DTEACh for the innovations he's made in engineering education in all other initiatives he's designed.

"It may seem obvious that engineering should be taught within the context of technology, but it is actually not very common. None of us who teach engineering were taught that way. In fact, none of us were taught how to teach. We tend to teach the way we were taught, which was generally through stand-up lectures. However, there is a trend now in engineering to appeal to other learning styles. Ironically, I learned the value of this approach to teaching first-hand in DTEACh. What started as an outreach program from the University to the community has had a profound influence in the opposite direction."
-Rich Crawford

Project Centered Education in Mechanical Engineering (PROCEED)

The DTEACh approach led Dr. Crawford to apply the lessons learned to the college-level courses. He naturally joined with other faculty in an innovative redesign of the department's undergraduate curriculum. Developed in 2000, the program they developed is called PROCEED, Project Centered Education in Mechanical Engineering.

The PROCEED approach to teaching is now evident in almost all ME courses. In this photo, undergraduate research assistants are involved in hands-on research in a professor's research lab, under the supervision of a graduate student.

The PROCEED approach to teaching is now evident in almost all ME courses. In this photo, undergraduate research assistants are involved in hands-on research in a professor's research lab, under the supervision of a graduate student.

PROCEED has at its core a heavy emphasis on hands-on learning. Today's mechanical engineering students are different from mechanical engineers of earlier generations. Fifty years ago, engineering students were almost all men who often became interested in the field as they tinkered with their cars, learning how vehicles worked through experimentation. Today's mechanical engineering students often haven't been privy to that sort of hands-on learning as children or teenagers. Today, it is more likely an aptitude in math or programming, encouraged by teachers and parents that spurred their initial interest in engineering. As the world has become more digital, the way students are taught had to change, because mechanical engineering, itself, changed.

Dr. Crawford and his collaborators have developed three courses using the PROCEED methodology. The first of these, UG302 titled "The Engineered World: Products and Innovation" is a freshman level class. Through active learning techniques and various creative methods, this class, once considered one of the most useless, is now a favorite. Another class, 266J titled "Mechanical Engineering Design Methodology" has the students reverse engineer, analyze and improve a common product, such as a leaf blower. Students gain a deeper understanding of engineering concepts and show better retention compared to lecture-only instruction. The capstone class offered to graduating seniors is 266K "Mechanical Engineering Design Projects." In this class, the students design a product for a real, paying client who sets the parameters of the job for them, exactly like a real-world engineering project. Students work in teams of three or four in these classes, and Dr. Crawford acts as a mentor. One recent graduate summed up her experience with Dr. Crawford in 266K.

"Imagine a bottomless well full of knowledge of all things engineering. That's Dr. Crawford. Everything he would tell us [on our K project] was incredibly useful and insightful."
-Recent Graduate

UTeachEngineering

A teacher team presents a robot they constructed and programmed.

A teacher team presents a robot they constructed and programmed.

Dr. Crawford is one of three engineering faculty who have partnered with the highly acclaimed UTeach program which trains university graduates for careers in K-12 teaching. Funded by a $12M grant from NSF, they have developed an engineering track, called UTeachEngineering, for training teachers of high school engineering courses.

The development of this program is a response to the recent designation of engineering by the state of Texas as an acceptable fourth year high school science elective and the lack of teachers qualified to teach such a course in Texas. UTeachEngineering will prepare UTeach science and mathematics students for engineering certification and will provide a summer master's degree program for in-service teachers. As part of the development team (and a co-PI on the NSF grant), Dr. Crawford has helped create and deliver a new course in the fundamentals of engineering, engineering pedagogy, and engineering design. This course is the basis of the professional development institute offered by UTeachEngineering, and in modified form will become one of the undergraduate courses for pre-service UTeachEngineering students. Dr. Crawford has also co-developed a graduate course on machine and system design for in-service teachers in the master's program. Dr. Crawford is working with other Engineering and Education faculty to develop a high school engineering course that meets the recently established state standards.

Link: UTeachEngineering program brochure

Engineering Design Institute (EDI)

This photo was taken in 2000. The teams that year designed mechanical devices that shot basketballs at a real goal. In this shot, the team has just made a basket with their device, which was a slingshot type projectile launcher. Dr. Phil Schmidt is on the right side of the frame. Didey Muniz, who now works for the Women in Engineering Program on campus, was a counselor for the program at the time. She is seated at the table in the background.  She went through the program and became interested in engineering as a result.

This photo was taken in 2000. The teams that year designed mechanical devices that shot basketballs at a real goal. In this shot, the team has just made a basket with their device, which was a slingshot type projectile launcher. Dr. Phil Schmidt is on the right side of the frame. Didey Muniz, who now works for the Women in Engineering Program on campus, was a counselor for the program at the time. She is seated at the table in the background. She went through the program and became interested in engineering as a result.

The UT Engineering Design Institutes, started in 1996 by Dr. Crawford and two other ME professors, offers talented high school students and their teachers a week-long opportunity to discover the excitement of engineering through hands-on experience. Teams of students and teachers compete in designing, building and testing full-size prototypes to meet given specifications within a budget. Special effort is taken to include women and minorities in the application pool. The program has been designed to:

  1. Demonstrate the importance of teamwork and planning
  2. Introduce the application of physical and mathematical principles to solve engineering problem
  3. Increase knowledge of material properties, structures, and manufacturing processes
  4. Introduce the steps involved in bringing a product from concept to market
  5. Build students' confidence in their ability to handle challenging assignments

EDI students are selected through a rigorous application process, and admission is granted based on grades, aptitude and their interest in engineering as a career.

Dr. Crawford's Educational Impact

Dr. Crawford's work as an educator now impacts the science, math and engineering education of thousands of Texans, from age 10 to mature adults. Some of the program participants, who were involved in DTEACh as children, have seen the rest of their engineering education molded by Dr. Crawford's programs and methodology. Many wouldn't have become engineers at all, if not for Dr. Crawford's programs. The University of Texas at Austin and the Department of Mechanical Engineering applaud his continuing leadership in Texas engineering education.


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