(CLOSED) NSF 19-513 IUSE / Professional Formation of Engineers: Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (IUSE/PFE: RED)

Sponsor Name: 
Description of the Award: 

Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (hereinafter referred to as RED) is designed to build upon previous efforts in engineering education research. Specifically, previous and ongoing evaluations of the NSF Engineering Education and Centers Division program and its predecessors, as well as those related programs in the Directorate of Education and Human Resources, have shown that prior investments have significantly improved the first year of engineering students' experiences, incorporating engineering material, active learning approaches, design instruction, and a broad introduction to professional skills and a sense of professional practice – giving students an idea of what it means to become an engineer. Similarly, the senior year has seen notable change through capstone design experiences, which ask students to synthesize the technical knowledge, skills, and abilities they have gained with professional capacities, using reflective judgment to make decisions and communicate these effectively. However, this ideal of the senior year has not yet been fully realized, because many of the competencies required in capstone design, or required of professional engineers, are only partially introduced in the first year and not carried forward with significant emphasis through the sophomore and junior years.

From FY 2014 to 2016 the Directorates for Engineering (ENG), Education and Human Resources (EHR), and Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) funded 19 projects as part of the RED program, in alignment with the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) framework and Professional Formation of Engineers (PFE) initiative. These 19 projects are designing revolutionary new approaches to engineering and computer science education, ranging from changing the canon of engineering to fundamentally altering the way courses are structured to creating new departmental structures and educational collaborations with industry. A common thread across these projects is a focus on organizational and cultural change within the departments, involving students, faculty, staff, and industry in rethinking what it means to provide an engineering program.

In order to continue to catalyze revolutionary approaches, while expanding the reach of those that have proved efficacious in particular contexts, the RED program will support two tracks in FY19: RED Innovation and RED Adaptation and Implementation (RED-A&I). RED Innovation projects will develop new, revolutionary approaches and change strategies that enable the transformation of undergraduate engineering education. RED Adaptation and Implementation projects will adapt and implement evidence-based organizational change strategies and actions to the local context, which helps propagate this transformation of undergraduate engineering education. Projects in both tracks will include consideration of the cultural, organizational, structural, and pedagogical changes needed to transform the department to one in which students are engaged, develop their technical and professional skills, and establish identities as professional engineers. The focus of projects in both tracks should be on the department's disciplinary courses and program.

RED Innovation track: The RED Innovation track supports projects that involve radically, suddenly, or completely new approaches and action; producing fundamental, structural change; and that go outside of or beyond existing norms and principles. This track has two goals:

  • Generate new knowledge on best practices for meaningfully and thoughtfully incorporating into the middle two years and technical core of the engineering curriculum oft-neglected "professional skills" (i.e. 21st century skills, design, communication, teamwork, historical and contemporary social context, lifelong learning, and ethics). Changes in the middle two years need to be integrated with freshman and senior experiences in order to form an unbroken sequenced thread through the curriculum so that the process of professional formation deepens and strengthens as students move through engineering programs.


  • Generate new knowledge on how to transform the departmental cultures to be environments that are inclusive, innovative, equitable and supportive of faculty, faculty development to support cultural change, and build new department structures and cultures through innovative practices and policies that support significant holistic professional formation.

Strategies should be developed with impact on the student as the focus. Proposed efforts must be grounded in sound educational theory and work to enable a continuous progression of professional formation through the four-year experience. Efforts should address 21st Century T-shaped skills (i.e., cross-disciplinary breadth), and they should be aligned with stakeholder expectations.

RED A&I Track: The RED A&I track support projects that use evidence-based and evidence-generating change strategy approaches and actions that are adapted to the local context. The goal of this track is to:

  • Generate new knowledge related to the adaptation of proven change strategies and actions in a new context.

Strategies should be developed with impact on the student as the focus. Proposed efforts must be grounded in sound educational theory and work to enable a continuous progression of professional formation through the four-year experience. Efforts should address 21st Century T-shaped skills (i.e., cross-disciplinary breadth), and they should be aligned with stakeholder expectations.

Note: The RED program is offered in alignment with the NSF-wide undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education initiative, Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE). More information about IUSE can be found in the Introduction of this solicitation. Prospective PIs are encouraged to consider the IUSE: EHR program for projects that are outside the scope of RED A&I (see https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=505082). Specifically, the IUSE:EHR Institutional and Community Transformation (ICT) track promotes innovative approaches to using research to catalyze change that addresses challenges across and within institutions (institutional transformation), as well as within and across specific disciplines (community transformation). Prospective PIs are not allowed to submit identical or substantively similar proposals to RED and IUSE:EHR.

Award Information

Anticipated Funding Amount: $8,000,000

Estimated program budget and number of awards are subject to the availability of funds.

Eligibility Information

Who May Submit Proposals:

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:

  • Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) - Two- and four-year IHEs (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US, acting on behalf of their faculty members. Special Instructions for International Branch Campuses of US IHEs: If the proposal includes funding to be provided to an international branch campus of a US institution of higher education (including through use of subawards and consultant arrangements), the proposer must explain the benefit(s) to the project of performance at the international branch campus, and justify why the project activities cannot be performed at the US campus.

Who May Serve as PI:

For both tracks, the Principal Investigator must be a department chair/head (or equivalent) to provide leadership for the change process. Additionally, there must be a RED team that includes (at a minimum) an expert in engineering education research who can provide guidance on evidence-based practices, and an organizational change expert who can advise on strategies for developing a culture of change and on strategies for creating meaningful collective ownership of the effort among faculty, students, and staff. The engineering education and organizational change experts may be at different institutions from the proposing institution. Funding for these experts at other institutions may be supported as consultants, through a sub-award, or through a separately submitted collaborative proposal.

Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization: 2

An organization is allowed up to two submissions per competition.

Limit on Number of Proposals per PI or Co-PI: 1

A Principal Investigator is allowed only one submission per competition.

Limit (Number of applicants permitted per institution): 
Sponsor Final Deadline: 
Jan 24, 2019
OVPR Application or NOI Instructions: 

Required for Penn State downselect:

Interested applicants should send the following documents in sequence in one PDF file (File name: Last name_NSF 19-513_2019 no later than 4:00 p.m. on the internal submission deadline:

Cover Page:

  • Principal Investigator’s (PI's) names and departmental affiliation
  • Co-PI's names and departmental affiliation(s)
  • A list of possible participating organizations (if applicable)
  • Proposal Title
  • Red Innovation Track or RED A&I Track

Project Description (no more than two pages):

  • Identify the project scope that addresses the key aspects and elements outlined in the NSF solicitation, principal investigators, collaborators, and partner organizations.

General Timeline for Proposal Development.

2-page current NSF Bio-sketch for all PIs and Co-PIs.

If this is a resubmission, include any feedback details you've received from the relevant program director(s)

Completed Current and Pending Support Document (template attached to this competition)

Formatting Guidelines and Page Limit:

  • Font/size: Times New Roman (12 pt.)
  • Document margins: 1.0” (top, bottom, left and right)
  • Standard paper size (8 ½” x 11)

Questions concerning the limited submissions process may be submitted to limitedsubs@psu.edu.

To be considered as a Penn State institutional nominee, please submit a notice of intent by the date provided directly below.
This limited submission is in downselect: 
Penn State may only submit a specific number of proposals to this funding opportunity. The number of NOIs received require that an internal competition take place, thus, a downselect process has commenced. No Penn State researchers may apply to this opportunity outside of this downselect process. To apply for this limited submission, please use this link:
OVPR Downselect Deadline: 
Thursday, December 6, 2018 - 4:00pm
No applicants