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Department of Integrative STEM Education History

The lineage of the current Department of Integrative STEM Education (School of Engineering) can be traced back to the late 1800’s when the United States was making its transition from an agrarian to an industrial society. Nationally, by 1900, two distinct strands of industrial education were being shaped. One was a vocational strand designed to prepare students with identified job skills, such as carpenter or printer, while the other was a general education strand, which was intended to prepare students with a liberal education to better understand the “human designed world.” This latter philosophy leading to technological literacy has been the underpinning of the Department’s K-12 programs for over one hundred years.

The beginning of the study of industry at the College can be traced back to 1891 when Edward Healy introduced courses in manual training intended to develop manual dexterity in practical arts and handcrafts as a part of the training of elementary school teachers. Charles A. Burt transformed the program from manual training classes to a study of industry focus. In 1932 the four-year Industrial Arts curriculum was approved by the State and the degree of Bachelor of Science in Education was awarded to the new graduates.

Professor Armstrong led the department from 1935 until his retirement in 1958. Describing his tenure in a 1963 letter he noted that “the curriculum was greatly enriched … new processes such as metal casting, electro plating, metal spinning, stone polishing, arc welding and offset printing were introduced. Courses in industrial chemistry, strength of materials, radio repair, and production methods … auto mechanics were added to the curriculum.”

Phi Alpha Delta Fraternity (PAD) was founded in 1925 at the College. In 1939 Roscoe L. West, President of the College awarded the fraternity an island in Lake Sylva in recognition of their extensive volunteer work on campus.

In order to accommodate the number of armed service veterans who enrolled in the industrial arts program after the war … six barrack buildings were acquired from the Federal Works Administration.  The building was occupied in February of 1948, and in June, near the end of the school year, a fire destroyed … the building. In 1958 the College changed its name the New Jersey State Teachers College at Trenton to Trenton State College.

Dr. Robert Worthington chaired the department from 1958 to 1965 at which time he left the College to take a position as NJ Assistant Commissioner of Education. Having met Worthington at a Washington DC meeting, TSC President Martin was interested in hiring Dr. Worthington as a replacement for the retiring Professor Armstrong. Martin was impressed with Worthington’s vision and his expressed interest in bringing national distinction to the school by making the Industrial Arts program “the best program in America,” as well as his interest in establishing a Master’s program. Dr. Rutherford Lockette was hired to coordinate the Master’s Degree program, which was approved in 1960. The graduate program grew to an enrollment of over 150 students. Dr. Lockette was the first African American to serve as a faculty member at the College. Worthington described Lockette as a “brilliant professor … he did an awful lot of good as far as racial relations, human relations here for the college.”

Under Worthington’s leadership, a new state-of-the-art building included classrooms, administrative offices, planning and research, an amateur radio station (WTSR) and an instructional materials center is planned. New laboratory space was designed for drafting, design, electricity/electronics, general industrial arts, graphic arts, metalworking, power mechanics, and woodworking. On May 11, 1963, the cornerstone was laid for the new
Fred O. Armstrong Hall named in honor of the founding chairperson of the program. Enrollment set new records at 440 students.

Worthington added the study of industrial design into the broader curriculum as well as new faculty for electronics, graphics, and power mechanics. He established numerous recognitions for all students in the School including the Armstrong Scholarship Award, Armstrong Leadership Award and the Vincent Dresser Service Award. Dr. Worthington was a visionary who believed all children should understand their human-designed world. He worked with Dr. Robert Thrower and Elizabeth Hunt to create a very successful and nationally recognized Technology for Children (T4C) curriculum.

Following a short tenure by Dr. Lockett as chair, Dr. Robert Thrower accepted the leadership for the department. Under his tenure, the department decided to begin a non-teaching degree in engineering technology. As a new Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, Alan Katz became the first non-education trained faculty member to join the department. New B.S. programs in Mechanical, Electrical, and Industrial Engineering Technologies were approved and a new Department of Engineering Technology was formed. The Engineering Technology majors were redesignated as Engineering Science in 1993.

Dr. Robert Thrower became Director of the new Division Industrial Education and Technology (DIET) in 1971. In that capacity he led the division through many tumultuous years at the College. His collaborative style promoted a culture of esprit de corps among the faculty. In 1981, Dr. Thrower was named Dean Babe of the new School of Technology as part of a campus-wide administrative reorganization. He faced many challenges transitioning faculty to the rapidly expanding engineering technology programs.  His collegial values led him in the process and guided him to keep faculty who had the strongest education ties in the Department of Industrial Education while transferring other faculty to one of the new technology programs. The Conrad Johnson Craftsmanship Award was established following Professor Johnson’s retirement in 1982.

The Department of Industrial Education was chaired by Dr. J. Russell Kruppa from 1971 to 1984. During his tenure, specializations in communication, manufacturing, power and energy, and electronics were added to the program. Enrollment in the education program dropped to 50 students per year, reflecting a declining demand for teachers from the high of the “baby boomers” years. Student enrollment in the communication area grew and included a required four-course sequence for all graphic design majors. Because enrollment was high in this area, plans were made for the first addition to Armstrong Hall including laboratories for graphic arts, photography a computer laboratory and a Creative Design classroom. The addition was completed in 1986

During the 1960’s, numerous national curriculum projects were funded to promote a contemporary “industrial technology” focused area of study. The largest was the Industrial Arts Curriculum Project (IACP) located at The Ohio State University and the University of Illinois (Donald Lux, et. al.). Dr. Kruppa coordinated the regional field test center for the IACP. In that capacity he worked with the teachers, solicited their feedback and sent many revisions to OSU during the field testing of the project. The funded project provided in-service training for teachers who planned to use the World of Manufacturing (WOM) and World of Construction (WOC) curriculum materials in their junior high school classroom. Students were given a textbook and laboratory manual while teachers used a teacher’s manual to prepare for each class. School districts adopting the WOM and WOC were required to schedule the class one period per day for the entire year, making it equal to other major subject areas.

Dr. Weber led the department from 1985 to 1988 during the transition to Technology Education. Five faculty members, John Hutchinson (convener), Keith Finkral, John Karsnitz, Stanford Ruggles, and Robert Weber met weekly to plan the new “design based curriculum” and share reports of national and international developments in the field. The project resulted in a detailed proposal for a revised curriculum with new courses to be implemented over a multiple year sequence as well as a proposal to change the name of the department to “Technology Education” and the establishment of an “Annual Technology Education Professional Conference”.

Working with Dr. Keith Finkral, the Technology Education Society (TES) was formed in the early 90’s and became affiliated with the national Technology Education Collegiate Association (TECA). Professors Finkral and Weber serving as co-advisors, began taking students to the national and regional conferences to participate in student design challenges. Award plaques date back to 1993.

Dr. John Karsnitz led the Department from 1988 to 2013, earning the distinction of being the longest standing chair with twenty-four years of service. With the design of a new technology based curriculum in 1985, the faculty began to establish themselves in the New Liberal Arts (NLA) movement on campus and in the region leading to the establishment of a new campus-wide general education required course titled “Society, Ethics and Technology.” In 1992 the Department is renamed Department of Technological Studies by the TSC, Board of Trustees.

Believing that the State’s teachers, which were largely trained in the industrial arts philosophy, would need professional development to make the transition to technology education, the faculty began hosting a Professional Conference in the fall of 1986. Conferences were held annually from 1986-2010. In 1993, the faculty created a Distinguished Alumni Award to be given to a graduate of the program who had distinguished themselves through innovative teaching and service to the profession. A plaque with their picture is on display in the Department office.

At the request of the Department, TIES Magazine (Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship for Students), an avant-garde publication in the field, received support from Dr. Claire Hardgrove, VP for Academic Affairs, to move its publication office from Drexel University to Armstrong Hall and to be affiliated with the Department in 1993. Dr. Ron Todd, Publisher, and Dr. Patricia Hutchinson, Editor-in-Chief, headed a team that moved into new office space created in AR101-103. In addition to publishing a magazine, Dr. Todd began receiving major grants to support the development of curriculum. “Project UPDATE” (1993), funded at $1 million from National Science Foundation was the first of numerous multi-million dollar grants. Soon to follow were Project UPDATE-TEI (NSF $1.2), “Children Designing and Engineering™ (NSF $1.2), and “Exploring Designing and Engineering™ (NJ $2.5).” In 1996 the college name changed to The College of New Jersey.

In 2000, the Center received a grant to run the NJ State Technology Student Association (TSC). In 2011 the Center received a 3-year $0.3M grant to create a professional development model using the ITEEA EbD™ integrative-STEM curriculum materials.

The TIES Magazine group functioned as an informal Center in the Department until 2008 at which time it was formally recognized by Interim Provost Dr. Beth Paul and renamed the TCNJ Center for Excellence in STEM Education. Dr. Sharon Sherman directed the Center until 2009. In 2010, at the request of Dean Steve Schreiner, Dr. Steve O’Brien was named Center Director by Interim Provost Susan Bakewell-Sachs.

One of the most significant developments in the department history was the proposal to create a new iSTEM based major. After receiving approval by the College-wide Curriculum Committee (CUPPS, May 14, 1997) a proposal for the new Mathematics/Science/ Technology (M/S/T) major was approved by the Academic Affairs Committee of the TCNJ Board of Trustees on February 26, 1998 (BOT Program Announcement, June 25, 1998). Following the on-campus approval process, the proposal for the new Bachelor of Science degree was approved by the New Jersey President’s Council on November 12, 1998. Research on the new major by Dr. Steve O’Brien supported a belief that the M/S/T major as designed at TCNJ could serve as a national model for a STEM learning environment in the K-5(8) school nationally as long as the certifying State requires or allows a disciplinary major as part of the teacher education program. The M/S/T Program was renamed Integrative – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education (i-STEM Education) in the Fall 2013.

In the fall 2004, Dr. Karsnitz convened a “Pre-Engineering Advisory Board” comprised of nationally recognized experts including individuals with expertise in engineering education, technology education (K-16), state departments of education, and business. The group addressed two essential questions: “What engineering principles are appropriate for K-12 education?” and “What should teachers know and be able to do to teach pre-engineering

The new Technology/Pre-Engineering Education (T/PrEE) curriculum reflected the need to strengthen student’s engineering content knowledge. Calculus A, ETE131/Engineering Math, PHY201/General Physics I and a General Science elective were added to strengthen M/S content while courses in the existing Technology Education major were modified to add more engineering content in mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering principles. To teach the new pre-engineering content, the Department began searches for faculty with an engineering degree and experience in education. In 2006, Dr. Steve O’Brien joined the faculty holding a baccalaureate degree in Math/Physics and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Cornell. Dr. O’Brien was named Director of the TCNJ Center for Excellence in STEM Education in 2010 and was elected Chair of the Department following Dr. K’s retirement in 2013. In 2008, Dr. Matthew Cathell joined the faculty with his baccalaureate in chemistry and biochemistry a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Drexel University.

The Department receives the prestigious Mildred Dahne Award (2011) and cash prize for distinguished itself in the areas of excellence in teaching; innovation and creativity; and department impact.

For nearly thirty years, the “team” consisted of faculty members Drs. Finkral, Hutchinson, Karsnitz, Ruggles, Weber and for many of those years, Mrs. Judy Smedley, Department Secretary and loyal graduates serving as Adjunct Faculty members promoted innovation in studies associated with technological literacy. When TIES joined the department in 1993, the team was expanded to include Drs. Todd and P. Hutchinson and soon to follow Retired Air Force Colonel Ken Maskell as an associate editor. During this period of time, the Department was well recognized campus-wide for its collegiality and its productivity.

During his thirty-five year tenure at TCNJ, Dr. Karsnitz served as the college-wide elected faculty representative to the Board of Trustees (2001-2005) and member of the Faculty Senate Executive Board from 2001-2011. He led the effort to establish a new Campus Governance system, which received national recognition for its shared governance principles by the American Association of University Professors in 2006. He was one of the faculty members involved in developing the TCNJ Collegebound program in the mid-1980s and coordinated the Department’s involvement until 1998. He worked with NJTEEA to promote Technological Literacy through the establishment of Core Content Standards and served on the Science Framework Standards group preparing the technology chapter.

Under Dr. Karsnitz’s leadership, the highly successful i-STEM major was established in 1998 (originally called M/S/T). The Technology Education major was redesigned to include a pre-engineering component in 2005 (Technology/Pre-Engineering Education) and became affiliated with PLTW. Dr. Karsnitz created the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) – Secondary Education Technology Education program in 2008 for individuals with a degree in a design field who desire to teach. From 2000 to 2012 M/S/T, T/PrEE and MAT majors grew to ~200 students. Traditionally graduates from the MAT and T/PrEE majors become technology teachers, but i-STEM students with the Technology Specialization can also qualify for the Technology Education teacher endorsement. Dr. Karsnitz was most pleased that around 40 new graduates per year will qualify to teach Technology Education.

Dr. Karsnitz and his wife have established the John and Suzanne Karsnitz Scholarship Endowment Fund at TCNJ. The fund will award a $1000 scholarship each year to a junior T/PrEE major who has demonstrated the values Dr. and Mrs. Karsnitz held during their teaching careers: a commitment to teaching, leadership, creativity, and scholarship. Dr. Karsnitz also worked with Dean Schreiner to establish the Technological Studies Alumni Scholarship Endowment Fund using funds donated by alumni and friends to the Department. The Technological Studies Alumni Scholarship fund will also provide a $1000 scholarship to a junior Technology/Pre-Engineering Education or i-STEM who demonstrates a commitment to teaching, leadership, creativity and scholarship.

Dr. Steve O’Brien was elected chair in 2012 and has begun his vision of leading the Department to a position of national leadership in i-STEM education.

Dr. Matthew Cathell was invited by the Student Government Association to make the “Faculty Address” at the 2013 Graduation Ceremony. Matthew was the first faculty member from the School of Engineering to be invited to address the graduates. Dr. Manual Figueroa joined the faculty in 2013.

The full text of the Department history and supporting documentation can be found at the links listed below.

(Full Text in Final Revision)

Integrative STEM Education MEd and Certificate online Zoom information session, August 6, 2:00pm.Join