The Advanced Manufacturing PBL Project

The New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE) has received a three-year grant from the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a New England-wide project entitled Problem Based Learning (PBL) in Advanced Manufacturing: Transforming 21st Century Technician Education (AM PBL).

The AM PBL project will:

  • Develop a series of six authentic PBL Challenges (multimedia case studies) in collaboration with New England industry partners to bring into the classroom real-world problem-solving strategies used in advanced manufacturing fields such as aerospace, composite materials, medical devices, nanotechnology, optics, precision measurement and semiconductors and to promote the development of student problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
  • Provide a series of professional development activities for secondary and post-secondary in-service science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) educators, as well as teacher education faculty.
  • Develop new instructional materials for STEM teacher education programs in collaboration with Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) that serve pre- and in-service educators.
  • Conduct research on the impact of using PBL as a teaching strategy.

This new NEBHE project is the third in a series of PBL projects with the goal of improving engineering technician education by infusing into existing curricula PBL instructional materials, focused on solving real-world problems. NEBHE’s experience shows that compared with traditional lecture-based instruction, PBL improves student understanding and retention of subject content, and also improves teamwork, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, motivation and learning engagement. In addition, it fosters students’ ability to solve problems in new situations.


What is Advanced Manufacturing?

The Science and Technology Policy Institute has defined advanced manufacturing as “manufacturing that entails rapid transfer of science and technology into manufacturing products and processes.” Advanced manufacturing relies on skilled labor, creativity and innovation to produce highly specialized and complex products. Engineers, technicians, business developers, entrepreneurs, scientists, financiers and other experienced professionals work together, applying their collective knowledge and problem-solving skills in order to create innovative customer solutions to manufacturing challenges.


Advanced Manufacturing in New England

In 2014, the New England Council commissioned a renewal of the 2009 Advanced Manufacturing study by Deloitte Consulting. The 2014 study showed that in New England, nearly 60% of manufacturing jobs are classified as “advanced manufacturing.” Interviews with New England-based advanced manufacturers revealed concerns that manpower shortages were constraining growth prospects, estimating that in 2011 and 2012, there were 18,000 unfilled advanced manufacturing jobs due to a lacking skill base.

The goal of the Advanced Manufacturing PBL project is to produce more graduates prepared to fill the demand for workers in New England’s advanced manufacturing companies by contributing to the improvement of STEM education in New England while introducing students to this high-tech, lucrative and exciting industry.


The Advanced Manufacturing PBL (AM PBL) project (DUE #1204941) is funded by the Advanced Technological Education program of the National Science Foundation.

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