College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Iowa State University receives $2 million National Science Foundation grant to transform approaches to teaching and learning in electrical and computer engineering

AMES, Iowa – Students at Iowa State University majoring in electrical and computer engineering will greatly benefit from a new $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create a new collaborative instructional model for course design that will transform their education and develop the next generation of engineers.

Electrical and computer engineering technologies have evolved from simple electronics and computing devices to complex systems that profoundly change the world we live in. Designing these complex systems requires a new way of thinking including the development of social, professional and ethical responsibility. The project being funded – “Reinventing the Instructional and Departmental Enterprise (RIDE)” – will transform the electrical and computer engineering department and the way it trains a new type of workforce.

The changes will be driven by RIDE’s cross-functional, collaborative instructional model for course design and will lead to different department structures and a more agile environment able to respond quickly to industry and social needs – and ultimately serve as a model for electrical and computer engineering departments across the country. Another impact of the RIDE project will be broadening the participation of underrepresented students, especially undergraduate women, in the field of electrical and computer engineering. Project activities will emphasize inclusive teaching practices and learning experiences.

Faculty from four colleges at Iowa State will play a role in the RIDE initiative including serving as project leaders, course instructors, facilitators and researchers. This collaboration between the Colleges of Engineering, Human Sciences, Design and Liberal Arts and Sciences lends university-wide expertise and complementary perspectives. The interdisciplinary instructional model for course development will promote design and systems thinking, professional skills such as leadership and inclusion, contextual concepts and creative technologies. The diverse RIDE project team will bring various backgrounds, perspectives and skills to the project.

David Jiles, chair of the electrical and computer engineering department, is the principal investigator of the RIDE project. In this role, he serves as the overall project manager. “The way we educate future engineers is continuously evolving,” Jiles said. “Technology and systems are changing faster than ever, and this new model of education will enhance the success of our students – the future engineering leaders who will address our greatest challenges and use advances in technology to make a difference in our world.”

The RIDE project will begin this summer by developing strategies for managing change processes. During the first year, the project strategies will get underway – and by the second year, new versions of selected courses will be piloted. The electrical and computer engineering department will continually be developing and refining department and curricular practices.

The National Science Foundation, based in Virginia, is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In 2016, the NSF has made seven awards across the country to support revolutionizing engineering departments, an NSF activity known as “RED.” The RED goal is to help universities transform department structures, policies, practices and curricula to enable groundbreaking changes in undergraduate engineering education. The $2 million award to Iowa State is one of two given to an electrical and computer engineering department.

“Significant time and investment is needed to create lasting change throughout an entire department,” Jiles said. “We are excited to develop new models of undergraduate education at Iowa State and be a leader in addressing the priorities and societal grand challenges facing the electrical and computer engineering professions.”

The Iowa State College of Engineering has the 7th largest undergraduate enrollment in the country. The college ranks third nationally in computer engineering degrees awarded and 14th in electrical engineering degrees awarded.


“Reinventing the Instructional and Departmental Enterprise (RIDE)” project team members at Iowa State University include:

  • Brian Burt, education
  • Lora Leigh Chrystal, program for Women in Science and Engineering
  • Kristen Constant, department chair, materials science and engineering
  • Doug Jacobson, electrical and computer engineering
  • David Jiles, department chair, electrical and computer engineering
  • Phillip Jones, electrical and computer engineering
  • Mari Kemis, education
  • Lisa Larson, psychology
  • Mani Mina, electrical and computer engineering
  • Sarah Rajala, dean, college of engineering
  • Sarah Rodriguez, education
  • Diane Rover, electrical and computer engineering
  • Mack Shelley, political science
  • Seda Yilmaz, industrial design
  • Joe Zambreno, electrical and computer engineering

Contact: Diane Rover, electrical and computer engineering, 515.294.2819,